GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — The combination of Olivia Boender’s power and Danielle Root’s finesse propelled No. 5 Waverly to a 27-25, 25-20, 27-25 upset victory over No. 3 Elkhorn South on Thursday morning in first-round play of the Class B state tournament at Grand Island Senior High School.
Boender, a Nebraska recruit, finished with 22 kills, three blocks, three ace serves and 21 digs as the Vikings won in their first state tournament appearance since 1998. Root added nine kills, including five in the second set, to help Waverly own a 42-36 advantage in kills.
“They’re very different hitters,” Waverly coach Terri Neujahr said of Boender and Root. “Olivia is pure power and Dani is a little bit more finesse, a little bit more placement and she had a couple of line shots that were pretty powerful as well.
“(Root) was huge for us, too. Both of those kids played big today.”
While Boender had the large and enthusiastic Waverly crowd buzzing with several powerful kills, Elkhorn South coach Briana Ritter said Root’s attacking effectiveness may have had the larger impact.
“I think that Dani Root was Waverly’s bigger player today — I really do,” Ritter said. “She was consistent. She took care of the ball. She got the big kills when they needed it.
“I really feel like Dani was their star today. Olivia and Dani are a difficult duo to defend.”
Boender got Waverly (28-6) off to a fast start with 12 first-set kills. With the score tied 25-25, the 6-foot-1 junior finished off the Storm with a kill and a solo block.
“(Boender) was demanding the ball and she was everywhere,” Neujahr said. “She was huge for us. Her 75-percent hit is still harder than most kids’ regular 100 percent, and she was killing the ball out the back row and the front.”
Brittany Cech and Allison Rogers had 11 kills apiece to lead Elkhorn South (25-8), which had split two previous meetings with Waverly this season. Ashley Knight had 28 assists and Lauren Hays recorded 21 digs for the Storm.
The win moved Waverly one away victory from advancing to the state championship match for the first time since reaching the Class B state final in 1975. The Vikings last won a state volleyball title in 1974 when the program captured the first three state volleyball tournament championships from 1972 to ’74.
Up next for Waverly is No. 1-rated Northwest (33-2), which defeated York in its first-round match. Waverly gave Northwest one of its two losses this season with a two-game sweep back on Sept. 1 in the Beatrice Invitational.
Neujahr said Waverly had a team sleepover back in June in which her players set their goals for this season. At the top of the list: Playing in the Class B state championship.
“They thought it was entirely possible and I did, too,” Neujahr said. “At different times in the season, I wasn’t so sure, but wow, they just did a tremendous job today. I’m so proud of them.”
Waverly (28-6).......................................27 25 27
Elkhorn South (25-8)................................25 20 25
W (kills-aces-blocks): Makenna Meier 0-1-0, Jordyn Mackie 0-0-0, Miranda Snyder 0-1-0, Mackenzie Hyde 3-0-0, Danielle Root 9-0-0, Alisha Loveless 5-0-0, Mallory Miesbach 0-0-1, Brianna Boender 3-0-1, Olivia Boender 22-3-3. Totals 42-5-5.
ES (kills-aces-blocks): Brittany Cech 11-1-0, Kelsey Green 3-0-0.5, Emily Hardin 5-0-0, Allison Rogers 11-1-0.5, Emily Gregan 5-2-0.5, Ashley Knight 1-0-0.5, Lauren Hays 0-0-0, Rebecca Madden 0-1-0, Hannah Christy 0-0-0, Jennifer Wies 0-0-0. Totals 36-5-2.
Set assists: W 36 (Hyde 36); ES 32 (Knight 28, Cech 1, Hardin 1, Rogers 1, Madden