Trying to build a program is no easy task, but Karen Nelsen is doing her best at Fremont.
The Tigers haven't been to state in almost 40 years, but they're 18-5 and cracked the Class A ratings this week at No. 9. That debut follows Fremont’s road win over 10th-ranked Lincoln Pius X.
“Sometimes it feels like climbing Mount Everest,” Nelsen said. “It’s a lot of work, but I know we’re moving in the right direction.”
The Tigers haven’t played many ranked teams while racking up those 18 wins, but Nelsen makes no apologies.
“I didn’t love our schedule, but there wasn’t much we could do about it,” she said. “We’re focused on doing our best, no matter who we play.”
Fremont seems to be on the right track, and its victory last Tuesday night against the perennially tough Thunderbolts is proof. The Tigers dropped the first set 25-11 but stormed back to win the next three 26-24, 25-14 and 25-22.
Grace Williams and Mattie Dalton each had 15 kills, libero Elise Estudillo had 27 digs, while Brylee Nelsen and Ellah Hofer combined for 35 assists.
Williams, a 6-foot-1 senior, leads the team with 207 kills. Estudillo, a 5-8 senior, has 328 digs and leads Class A in aces with 53.
“We had 14 aces in that Pius match and that’s a big key for us,” the coach said. “We serve aggressively and that helps us build momentum.”
Nelsen previously coached the school’s JV team and was a varsity assistant. She took over this year for Cindy Kostek, whose Tigers went 11-13 last year.
She has driven home the point that it’s been a while since Fremont made an impact on the volleyball front. The school has not reached state since 1983, when Nelsen was a toddler.
“I’ve had the players look at the banners in our gym,” she said. “There are none for volleyball, and we hope to change that.”
The Tigers will be tested this week with a Senior Night home match against Class A No. 4 Lincoln Southwest. The Heartland Athletic Conference tournament is next week, followed by districts.
“We’re trying to build a program and doing the best we can,” Nelsen said. “We’re taking them one match at a time, one set at a time, one point at a time.”
Papillion-La Vista South won the (Omaha Skutt) SkyHawk Invitational with a 4-0 record, including a victory over powerful St. Thomas Aquinas from suburban Kansas City.
The Class A Titans maintain their lock on the overall top spot with a 31-0 record. Papio South also has moved up to No. 3 in the prepvolleyball.com national ratings.
Other teams holding their No. 1 slots are Class B Norris, C-1 Lincoln Lutheran, C-2 Clarkson/Leigh, D-1 Mead and D-2 Falls City Sacred Heart.
Lincoln Lutheran (27-1) enters the overall Top 10 this week. The Warriors, who captured the Centennial Conference tournament this past weekend, have dropped just one set since a season-opening road loss against Class B No. 3 Waverly.
On the subject of Waverly, the Vikings played one of the longest sets of the season against Elkhorn North on Saturday at the Eastern Midlands Conference tournament.
Waverly won the second set 36-34 and captured the match 2-1 with the help of 20 kills from Nebraska recruit Bekka Allick.
Skutt is one of 25 Nebraska schools taking part this month in Dig Pink, a registered trademark of the Side-Out Foundation.
Proceeds from those matches benefit breast cancer patients and the Buffett Cancer Center.
Saturday’s SkyHawk Invitational, which drew schools from as far away as Wisconsin, was Skutt’s Dig Pink event.
Top matches this week
Class A — Tuesday: Lincoln Southwest at Fremont; Gretna at Elkhorn South; Bellevue West at Omaha Marian. Thursday: Waverly at Omaha Westside; Papillion-La Vista at Sioux City Heelan. Friday-Saturday: Westside Invitational.
Class B — Tuesday: Norris at Elkhorn North; Omaha Duchesne at Waverly. Thursday: Omaha Skutt at Omaha Duchesne. Thursday, Saturday: Central 10 Conference tournament.
Class C-1 — Tuesday: Wahoo Neumann at Norfolk Catholic; Columbus Scotus at Grand Island Central Catholic. Thursday: Columbus Scotus at Wahoo Neumann; Kearney Catholic at Broken Bow. Saturday: Lincoln Christian Invitational.
Class C-2 — Tuesday: Pierce at West Point GACC. Thursday: Superior at Thayer Central. Thursday, Saturday: East Husker Conference tournament.
Class D-1 — Tuesday: Shelton triangular; Hitchcock County triangular; Ogallala at North Platte St. Patrick. Thursday: BDS triangular.
Class D-2 — Thursday: Bertrand at Kenesaw. Saturday: Pioneer Conference final.