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VOLLEYBALL: Digging into the Sarpy County storylines of the 2022 season

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Dragons volleyball

Gretna celebrates a point during their straight-sets win over Omaha Marian on Tuesday, Oct. 18. Sophomore Elle Heckenlively (second from right) and Faith Frame (far left) were selected to the All-Sarpy County second team.

In the midst of Papillion-La Vista South’s journey to a third state championship in four years, several other interesting storylines emerged around high school volleyball in Sarpy County.

Dragons notch most wins since 2016

For Gretna, their season ended with another quarterfinal loss, but with 30 wins, the Dragons had their winningest season in six years.

Sophomore Hayden Hart finished 18th in Nebraska in hitting percentage (.348; among players with at least 14 games played and 342 attack attempts), good for fourth in Class A. Hart also led Gretna with 44 total blocks

Elle Heckenlively, also a sophomore, was tenth in serving aces (56) Class 15th in kills (346), and tied for second on the Dragons with 19 solo blocks (36 total). Junior Faith Frame was fourth in digs with 491, and was one serve reception ahead of Heckenlively with 437.

The assists came from another sophomore, Nyah Potthoff, with 547, and senior Brena Mackling had 353.

Aside from Mackling, the Dragons will lose production from other seniors Hanna Loseke and Malia Struve, who combined for 302 kills and 37 solo blocks (69 total).

Junior Cassie Stones was another key member of the Dragons’ success, with 268 kills (second for Gretna), 30 aces (tied-fourth) and 170 digs (fifth).

“We were a young team, had some injuries early, and they battled through those,” Gretna head coach Mike Brandon said. “They played great, came out and won some important matches to begin the year. They got better as the season went on, every person on the floor got better.”

Aside from a two-set loss to Kearney on Sept. 30 in the Lincoln Public Schools Invitational, the other eight losses came to state tournament teams (C2 champion Lincoln Lutheran, B runner-up Elkhorn North, A champion Papio South — twice, runner up Westside, semifinalist Papio, and Marian).

Even in their four-set defeat to Omaha Westside, Class A runners-up, in the state quarterfinals, Brandon said the Dragons “maxed out.”

“I thought we maxed out right here. A couple plays go a little bit differently, who knows what happens here, but I’m just incredibly proud of this group. They are one of the grittiest teams I’ve ever coached.”

Trojans host (and win) first subdistrict in six yearsAlthough they ultimately fell short of making the state tournament, Platteview hosted their first subdistrict since 2016 in their first season in Class C1.

Facing a “Class B schedule” after moving down, the Trojans roster was also without a senior this year, providing both a challenge and advantage.

“Our girls could go two ways on that one,” Platteview head coach Shae Speth said after the Trojans’ sweep of Ashland-Greenwood in the Subdistrict C1-2 Final on Oct. 25.

“It’s like well, we got next year too, but I don’t think that that’s at all what they envision,” Speth said. “We also don’t have those seniors who sometimes try to do too much, so we’re just focused like we’re still building for this year and building for next year.”

The Trojans ultimately fell short in the District C1-3 Final in a sweep to Grand Island Central Catholic on Oct. 29.

After having losing seasons for the last several years, Speth said hosting the subdistrict was a special opportunity.

“We know that we might not get that opportunity again, so take advantage of it,” she said.

Co-captains Hannah Tagel and Lexi Hans led the way as teammates finished among Class C1 leaders. Junior Kate Rosland finished seventh in hitting percentage (.301; among players with at least 12 games played and 330 attack attempts) and sophomore Abree Plueger was 13th in serving aces (53).

Hans missed 26 sets compared to Plueger (94 played) but finished just nine kills behind with 263. Rosland led the Trojans with 38 total blocks, and freshman Brooklyn Stehlik added 28. Stehlik was also close behind Plueger’s ace count with 47.

Libero Tagel had a team-high 346 digs and 492 serve receptions, and the passing was buoyed by juniors Ainsley Vanosdall (450 assists) and Clara Carlson (419).

Platteview had solid contributions across the board, and the Trojans have a lot of versatility and all of their experience returning for the 2023 season.

Milestones set throughout Titans championship season

The greatest accomplishment for Papillion-La Vista South was one that came as a team: winning their third state championship in four years. However, several individual milestones also stood out.

Senior libero Kenzie Dyrstad reached 1,000 digs with ten against Omaha Burke in the District A-1 final on Oct. 26. Her younger sister, junior Kyla, hit 1,000 assists in the state championship match against Omaha Westside.

A thousand was also the magic number for junior outside hitter Lauren Medeck, who reached that many kills in the nationally-televised GEICO Girls Volleyball Invitational against Skyview (Idaho) on Oct. 7.

“It’s what I’ve been working for my entire high school career and that I hit it, it’s just like wow, it’s so surreal, I don’t even know how to put it into words,” Medeck said.

Senior Stella Adeyemi had reached 1,100 kills just a few days earlier against Papio.

“Stella hit 1,100, so she had a big one the other day, and then Lauren hitting 1,000, that’s just huge,” Titans head coach Katie Tarman said. “They’ve both played for me since they were freshmen, and put up big numbers all the way along. So I mean, it’s just a huge accomplishment. Not many people get to say they’ve done that. So pretty proud of both of them.”

Bellevue East achieves best start since 2011

With a 10-3 start this year, the Chieftains had their best start to a season since they began the 2011 season 11-3.

That year, Bellevue East went on to finish 30-9 and reach the state tournament, losing a five-set thriller to Omaha Burke in the quarterfinals.

Eleven years later, the Chieftains lost nine of 12 after their strong start, and weren’t able to get back to their early-season success. With a final record of 19-15, the Chieftains still finished above .500 for the first time since 2019, but were swept at Fremont Tuesday, Oct. 25 in District A-5.

Before and throughout the season, head coach Courtney Smeby depended on senior leadership and core values.

The Chieftains “hit the ground running” during the summer and talked about being all-in and having positivity and confidence.

“If we feel like somebody’s not living those core values, they’re putting in barriers,” Smeby said. “(The players) do a really good job of coming together.”

The season as a whole has been one of accomplishments for Bellevue East, with several records being tied or broken.

Against Omaha Burke on Oct. 11, senior Mackenize Reimer tied a school record for blocks in a match with 11. In a five-set loss, Reimer executed a game plan after a “lot of time” in practice against the Bulldogs, who were reliant on their pin hitters.

“There were a lot of girls that have a lot of career highs for blocks in that match,” Smeby said.

Senior Rylee Craig finished with 69 serving aces, 14th overall in Nebraska and fourth in Class A. Sophomore Mya Weber was eighth in Class A with 64 total blocks.

Weber tied senior Cassidy Pechar for second on the Chieftains with 131 kills, and senior Lilly Gulley led the way with 223.

Senior Erica Nickisch led Bellevue East with 363 digs and 436 serve receptions, and Craig was second with 267. Craig also led the Chieftains with 609 assists.

Having seven seniors benefitted the Chieftains this year, but the loss of high levels of production from all seven will be tough to overcome next season.

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