CLASS B BOYS SEMIFINALS
No. 1 Omaha Skutt (18-1) vs. No. 5 Columbus (11-5), 9 a.m.: A pair of very similar teams. Neither is going to do anything flashy, but both will wow you with how solid they are across the board. Skutt hasn’t lost to a Class B team since the end of the 2011 season. The SkyHawks played hands down the toughest schedule in Class B and came away better for it. Forwards Jake Sievers and Jared Mertz have combined for 33 goals this season, more than half of Skutt’s offensive output. Columbus isn’t without its own presence up front, though. Nick Linder is every bit of 6-foot-2 and a physical forward who pushes the Discoverer attack. The Discoverer offense will try to crack Skutt keeper Michael Kluver, one of the top goalies in the state and a Creighton recruit.
No. 2 Gretna (14-4) vs. No. 3 South Sioux City (14-2), 11 a.m.: Contrasting styles set up what is sure to be a match to see. Gretna is a big, physical bunch that would just as soon run through you as around you. South Sioux City plays a much more controlled, calculated game based on crisp passing and technically sound attacking. The Cardinals probably haven’t seen a defense like Gretna’s this season. The Dragons have given up more than one goal in a match twice all year.
No. 1 Omaha Marian (13-1) vs. No. 3 Millard West (11-3), 1 p.m.: Part III in a season series between what some think are the two most talented teams from top to bottom in the state. Marian did something it hasn’t had to do in a while — come back from a deficit — to beat Lincoln Southwest in the first round. The Crusaders showed fight in the victory and now get leading scorer Faith Carter back for the semifinals. Marian won the previous meetings 1-0 and 2-0, which came in a five-day span. Keep an eye on the keepers. The Wildcats’ Jordan Cassalia is an Army recruit. Taylor Saucier of Marian will play for Texas A&M. The teams met in last year’s semifinal, with Marian winning 4-0 on the way to its state-leading 11th championship. The Wildcats have fallen in the semis the last three seasons after winning the 2009 title.
No. 2 Millard North (15-1) vs. No. 6 Lincoln Pius X (12-3), 3 p.m.: Millard North is starting to resemble that cagey old fighter who isn’t always the favorite, but could always land a big knockout. The Mustangs did their busy work early (a 3-0 win over Lincoln East on Thursday) to buy a couple of rounds of rest before loading up again. Millard North knows what it takes to get to the final. Many of these same players were around for the 2011 championship. Standing in the way is a Lincoln Pius X team that fared well in its only season up from Class B. The Thunderbolts lost the regular-season meeting between the two, and dropped a couple of matches down the stretch but showed with wins against Omaha Westside and Lincoln East — both Class A tournament teams — that they can get it down against the top squads.
No. 2 Elkhorn South (12-1) vs. No. 3 Gretna (13-4), 6 p.m.: As is the case with most good conference rivalries, what happened during the regular season matters little now. For the record, Elkhorn South won both meetings in 2013. The Storm have a program looking to take the next step. In its third year of existence, Elkhorn South has been to the semifinals before, losing to Gretna in overtime in 2011. Forward Kelsey Doerr is the Storm’s leading scorer. Gretna can put it in the back of the net, too, but does its best work through a solid defense with senior Emily Roll, a shutdown defender, manning the back. Expect another tight affair. Of their five meetings, three have gone to shootouts. In their last 13 matches, the teams have given up a combined two goals.
No. 1 Omaha Skutt (13-1) vs. No. 4 Columbus Scotus (11-3), 8 p.m.: For the third time in four years, Skutt and Scotus meet in the semifinal round. The previous two meetings (2010, 2011) both went to the SkyHawks, who went on to win their second and third state titles in a row. Before that, Scotus had won the other three meetings at state. Skutt, which has played for the state title each of the last five years, is led by Marquette recruit Liz Bartels. The Shamrocks controlled play through the midfield in the victory against Hastings, something that will be harder but just as important against Skutt. Chances could be at a premium and both keepers help erase defensive mistakes.