Grand Island Northwest's tradition of volleyball excellence continues once again this season, but the team's positive impact doesn't stop there.
Coach Diane Rouzee's squad also is a winner outside of the gymnasium, as its work Sunday would attest. The Vikings spent part of the day preparing and serving food at the local Salvation Army — a random good deed that has become an annual event.
"We worked last year for Habitat for Humanity," Rouzee said. "It's our way to give something back to the community."
Rouzee (pronounced row ZAY) said 25 to 30 players were taking part in the event Sunday. The charity of choice each year is usually selected after the team decides an annual theme, which this year is "Survivor.''
"I think it's great for our girls to help out somehow," the longtime coach said. "You never want to forget what's really important in life."
Northwest, which has reached the state tournament each year since 2001, is 28-2 and ranked third in Class B.
Much of the credit for that success should go to Rouzee, who is in her 28th season as head coach. She has 696 career wins, fifth all-time among active coaches and 13th overall.
But Rouzee deflects any praise, insisting that the Vikings' program has maintained its tradition of excellence because of the work of her entire staff.
"All of us coach the freshmen, the junior varsity and the varsity,'' she said. "We rotate it around and the kids get all kinds of coaching, and the coaches work with all of the players."
Whatever is going on at the school, it's working. Not only has Northwest earned 23 trips to state, but it's been successful once it reaches that destination — three state titles and six runner-up finishes.
Rouzee said she wasn't sure what to expect heading into this season. The Vikings graduated three seniors from last year's squad that finished 26-7, losing to Elkhorn in the first round of a five-set state tourney match.
"We had some question marks going into the season," she said. "But our young kids have blended in well, and we've got awesome senior leadership."
That group of returning senior starters consists of outside hitter Allie Carlini, libero Kayla Bachle and setter Bailey Parr. Other returnees who also started last year are hitters Kylie Broich and Kelsey Placke.
The Vikings opened the season by winning the competitive Beatrice Invitational before suffering their first loss against Class A No. 2 North Platte. Northwest won its next five matches before losing to Class B No. 1 Omaha Skutt in the final of the Vikings' own invitational.
It was a setback that didn't sit well with Northwest, which won the first set against the SkyHawks and led late in the second before letting the best-of-three match slip away.
"We had them and we let them off the hook," Rouzee said. "I told our girls how we handled that loss was going to determine our season."
The Vikings responded by winning their next 17 matches. They didn't lose a set until dropping one against Class C-1 No. 2 Ord on Thursday night.
Rouzee said she likes Northwest's position heading into the final week of the regular season.
"We're OK with our losses," she said. "We just want to get back to state and try to do our best."
Another good deed: Rouzee's squad isn't the only team doing good in the community these days.
Omaha Marian coach Amy McLeay learned All Saints School in Omaha was in need of new volleyball uniforms for grades 4 through 8. She encouraged Marian volleyball families to sponsor one All Saints student for $20, and the families answered the call.
A youth clinic also was held last week in the All Saints gym so that the Marian players and All Saints players could get to know each other.
Statistics needed: Coaches of teams in Class A, Class B and the Omaha area are asked to submit updated statistics by Wednesday.
They may be emailed to mike. email@example.com or faxed to
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Coaches who are updating individual statistics through the MaxPreps website need not return The World-Herald stat sheet.
Top matches this week: Class A — Tuesday-Thursday: Heartland Athletic Conference tournament (final at Lincoln East).Wednesday, Thursday: Metro Conference tournament (final at Papillion-La Vista).
Class B — Tuesday: Columbus Scotus at Omaha Skutt; Wahoo at Platteview; Aurora at Seward; Lincoln Pius X at Grand Island Northwest.Thursday: Gretna, Waverly at Lincoln Pius X triangular; Elkhorn at Wahoo Neumann triangular.Saturday: River Cities Conference tournament (at Omaha Skutt).
Class C-1 — Tuesday: Hastings St. Cecilia at St. Paul.Thursday: Kearney Catholic at North Platte; Grand Island Central Catholic at Grand Island Heartland Lutheran.
Class C-2 — Tuesday: Sutton at Sandy Creek; Stanton, North Bend at Logan View triangular; Doniphan-Trumbull at Centura; Sandy Creek at Centura; Oakland-Craig at Wisner-Pilger.Thursday: Mid-State Conference tournament final.
Class D-1 — Tuesday: Lawrence-Nelson, BDS at Palmer triangular.
Class D-2 — Tuesday: Brady, Sandhills/ Thedford at Ansley-Litchfield triangular; Shelby/Rising City at Exeter-Milligan; Meridian at Red Cloud tournament.Friday: Niobrara Valley Conference tournament final.
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