LINCOLN — With both sides featuring quality attackers and a Big Ten-bound setter, Brad Nelson figured the Nebraska Coaches Association all-star volleyball match would come down to passing and chemistry.
So, after seeing how quickly his Red team came together in practices, the coach wasn't surprised his team functioned with a precision not usually seen in an all-star exhibition.
Nelson's Red team took the first three games from the Blue squad 25-21, 25-19, 25-21 before the Blue won a previously scheduled fourth game 25-17 Tuesday night at Lincoln North Star.
“Our hitters and setters worked together really well,” said Nelson, the coach at Axtell. “Sometimes that's a problem in an all-star game where you've got a bunch of girls that come in and haven't played together. From the first practice, these guys just jelled like a team that you would want to jell. They all just kind of surprised me at the beginning to come together that quickly and play together that well.”
The Red club's five Division I signees all played a hand in the win. Omaha Marian's Lexi Elman, who will play college ball at University of the Pacific, had seven kills, as did UNO signee Kristy Wieser of Lincoln Pius X. Kearney's Katie Higgins, headed for Notre Dame, added five kills, and Kearney Catholic's Michaela Mestl, headed to Wayne State, led the Red team with nine kills.
Ohio State-bound setter Maggie Heim of Marian excelled running the Red offense with 17 assists.
“We had really good team chemistry, I think. We had a lot of fun together,” Wieser said. “Maybe that was our advantage, if at all. We wanted to have fun. This was our final high school match.”
Wieser said that while she had played with a couple of other players in the match on her Omaha Wave club team, the match gave her the opportunity to put faces with some of the top names in Nebraska high school volleyball.
“You don't know them personally, but you know of them, coming across them in the volleyball world,” Wieser said. “It was awesome to come together and finally play with these girls who are really great players.”
The stars on the Blue team, which featured four Division I signees, had their moments as well. Wichita State-bound Jaelynn Griess led the Blue squad with 10 kills while playing a final match on her home floor at North Star. Bennington's Jessica Bird, who will play at Creighton, added seven kills.
And for Papillion-La Vista South's Kelly Hunter, perhaps the highest-profile player in the match, Tuesday was an interesting blend of her past and future.
Hunter, a three-time All-Nebraska selection who will be a freshman at Nebraska this fall, has been training at NU all month. The all-star game provided a final hurrah as a high school player, but came in front of an audience of her new teammates. The entire Husker volleyball team was in attendance, holding several enlarged images of Hunter's smiling face.
Hunter said when she told the NU team she was playing in this event, they rushed to round up tickets. She clearly was touched by the gesture following the match.
“I know not a lot of teams would do that,” Hunter said. “I know they really care about me, and I really care about them. They're really all such great teammates, so it really means a lot to me.”