To reach the state volleyball tournament, Gretna needed to defeat the team that has had its number.
But the fourth-ranked Dragons accomplished that goal Thursday night, posting a sweep over sixth-ranked Omaha Skutt to capture the B-1 District championship at Papillion-La Vista South. Gretna won 25-18, 27-25, 26-24 to earn a berth in next week’s tourney for the fourth straight year while the SkyHawks will miss state after finishing third in 2011.
“We’ve had a rivalry with them for years,” senior setter Chandelle Davidson said. “We wanted to come out strong tonight and not let them get in our heads.”
The SkyHawks had done just that, stretching back to last season. Skutt defeated Gretna three times in 2011 — including the district final and a five-set match at state — and had defeated the Dragons in their only previous match this year.
But Gretna wasn’t about to let this one slip away despite the fact the SkyHawks had advanced to the district final by defeating Class B No. 1 Omaha Gross. Skutt was unable to bring that same level of intensity Thursday night as the Dragons made the big plays late to score the victory.
“It’s tough to come off a huge win like we did and try to repeat that performance,” Skutt coach Renee Saunders said. “Every set was neck and neck, but they finished and we didn’t.”
The first set was close until the Dragons broke a 9-all tie by scoring the next eight points on Davidson’s serve. The SkyHawks had five errors during that stretch and Gretna eventually captured the set on another error when Skutt was whistled for a net violation.
Skutt led early in the second set but Gretna rallied to take its first lead at 13-12 on a kill by senior Rian Kirby. The Dragons later held a 24-22 advantage but the SkyHawks fought off two set points on a block by Megan Ruzicka and a kill by Amanda Woodman.
The set was tied again at 25 until Ruzicka netted a serve and Natalie Mickelson delivered a kill for the Dragons to end it.
The third set, much like the second, was close throughout. Skutt was able to open an 18-14 lead on a kill by Woodman but the SkyHawks were unable to put away Gretna to gain some needed momentum in the match.
The set was tied at 19, 23 and 24 before Madison Sutton pounded a kill to put the Dragons one point from victory. Davidson delivered the final kill by floating a deep shot into an open spot in the SkyHawks defense.
“We work on that situation in practice,” Gretna coach Mike Brandon said. “I’ve told Chandelle before that a set could come down to a shot like that, and she did a great job with it.”
The teams knew going into the match that one of the two available wild-cards would not be there for the loser. Gross will take one and Norris should get the second.
“We knew it was do or die,” Brandon said. “I wanted it that way because it really gave us something to play for.”
Mickelson led the Dragons with 12 kills while freshman Halie McArdle had seven and Sutton six. Davidson had 27 assists and three kills, including the big one to end the match.
Ruzicka paced the SkyHawks with 13 kills and four blocks while Woodman and Claire Knust had 11 each. Taylor Holz added eight kills and Jessica Diederich had five kills and 37 assists.
“Gretna played with a lot of heart,” Saunders said. “I’m proud of my team, but this is a tough way for our season to end.”
Om. Skutt (22-17).........................18 25 24
Gretna (24-8)................................25 27 26
OS (kills-aces-blocks): Taylor Holz 8-0-0, Jessica Diederich 5-1-1, Amanda Woodman 11-0-0, Megan Ruzicka 13-0-4, Claire Knust 11-0-0, Alexis Banker 3-1-1.
G: Chandelle Davidson 3-1-1, Madison Sutton 6-0-2, Natalie Mickelson 12-2-0, Rian Kirby 3-0-0, Sara Rahmanzai 4-0-0, Halie McArdle 7-1-4.
Set assists: OS 40 (Diederich 37, Michelle Thommi 1, Kierra Harder 1, Holz 1); G 30 (Davidson 27, Paige Young 2, Sutton 1).
B-2 at Omaha Northwest: Elkhorn South 3, Elkhorn 0
Third-ranked Elkhorn South swept the Antlers 25-13, 25-17, 25-21 to capture the district title. It's the second straight state berth for the Storm while crosstown rival Elkhorn will stay home for the second straight year.
B-3 at Lincoln Southwest: Waverly 3, Norris 0
The fifth-ranked Vikings swept the seventh-ranked Titans 27-25, 25-20, 25-21 and will head to state for the first time since 1998. The win avenged an earlier loss against Norris, which should be in line for a wild-card berth.
B-4 at Lincoln North Star: York 3, Seward 1
The unranked Dukes pulled off the biggest surprise in the Class B district finals, defeating the 10th-ranked Bluejays 25-23, 10-25, 30-28, 25-22. York had lost two previous matches against Seward but now will go to state for the first time since 1989.
B-5 at Kearney: Grand Island NW 3, Aurora 0
The second-ranked Vikings swept ninth-ranked Aurora 25-10, 25-22, 25-22 and will seek to capture the state title after finishing as the state runner-up the past five years. Grand Island Northwest will go to state for the 12th straight year while denying the Huskies their first trip since 2008.
B-6 at Bayard: Sidney 3, Alliance 0
The eighth-ranked Lady Raiders swept Alliance 25-12, 25-21, 25-14, qualifying for state for the first time since 2003. It was the third time this season that Sidney (25-6) has defeated the Bulldogs