Look at Summit League volleyball rosters and a familiar pattern emerges.
Denver’s Brea Muhle, who leads the Summit in hitting percentage, is from Columbus Lakeview. South Dakota star Kendall Kritenbrink, second in the league in kills per set, is from Omaha Gross. Her Coyote teammate Kelsey Biltoft, third in the Summit in blocks per set and hitting percentage, is from Nelson, Neb.
Several other Nebraska natives are role players throughout the league. And, regionally, this volleyball-mad state is producing Division I talent of varying influence at a wide range of programs, including UNO’s.
But, with last week’s signing of Omaha Marian setter Sydney O’Shaughnessy, Mavericks coach Rose Shires said her program made a step back toward what made it a dominant Division II program in the 1990s.
“Years ago, whoever Nebraska didn’t get, we’d get that next first-tier kid,” Shires said.
O’Shaughnessy is that kind of player, Shires said, and is one who can complement a roster of ever-increasing experience that is nearly all home-grown.
UNO finished its third season of Division I play last weekend at 7-22 overall and 2-12 in the Summit. The Mavs are 18-67 overall since making the move to Division I, and 3-27 in two seasons in the Summit.
But the final weekend also included a five-set upset of South Dakota, which finished third in the league.
UNO didn’t have a senior this past season, and O’Shaughnessy earned the program’s only scholarship currently available.
“Athletically, she’s what we need,” Shires said. “Her quickness, jumping ability, her overall strength ... she will be able to compete in the Summit League, and nationally, immediately.”
The Mavs’ returning building blocks include Megan Schamale of Murdock, Neb., who led the Summit in blocks (1.2 per set) and ranked fifth in hitting percentage (.295), Bailey Baxter of Grand Island Central Catholic, who was third in the league in service aces (0.38 per set), Kimberly Bailey of Lincoln North Star, who was fifth in digs per set (3.65), plus Kelley Wollak (a team-best 2.6 kills per set), versatile setter-hitter of Michaela Schimmer of Grand Island Northwest and undersized middle blocker Diane Banderas of Lincoln Southwest. All had starring roles as sophomores.
Middle blockers Amy Taylor and Kristy Wieser (Lincoln Pius X) also played regular roles as freshmen. Only two juniors are on the roster.
Joining the mix now is O’Shaughnessy, whom Shires credited for playing a pivotal role in leading an inexperienced and injury-plagued Marian team to the Class A state championship.
“I feel she’s the best setter in the state of Nebraska and will bring our program to the next level,” Shires said. “This is a very big get for us in the state of Nebraska.”