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Patterson: Gretna volleyball overcomes injuries and winless start in return to dominant form
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Patterson: Gretna volleyball overcomes injuries and winless start in return to dominant form

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Gretna has managed to avoid key injuries in recent years, but the odds finally caught up to the Dragons.

The top three returning hitters from last year’s Class A runner-up are out for the season. That helped lead to an 0-5 start for one of the state’s most consistently successful squads.

Gretna bounced back this past weekend by going 4-0 to capture the Kearney Invitational. That performance is enough to merit a promotion for the Dragons, who slip into the Class A No. 10 slot.

“Those were some big wins for us," coach Mike Brandon said. “We needed something positive after the bad news we’ve gotten on the injury front."

Let’s sort out those injuries chronologically, starting with senior Avery Kallman. The Wayne State basketball recruit injured her knee over the summer and will be sidelined this fall.

Junior Skylar McCune, who announced her commitment to Creighton on June 18, had hip surgery two weeks before the season began. A starter since her freshman year, she had 420 kills and 456 digs last season.

The most recent injury was suffered by senior Emma Prentice, who tore her ACL late in the season-opening match against Millard West. The North Dakota State pledge had more than 200 kills last year.

“To lose three returning starters so quickly was a jolt," Brandon said. “We’ve got girls trying to fill new roles so that’s taken a little bit of time."

Those injuries and a tough early schedule combined for that 0-5 start, unusual for a team with Gretna’s pedigree. The Dragons have gone to state 10 of the past 11 years under Brandon’s guidance and finished as the state runners-up three times.

The coach said his squad has gotten over the initial shock and has refocused. That was evident at the Kearney Invite when Gretna defeated Grand Island, Grand Island Northwest and North Platte before outlasting the host Bearcats in the final.

The Dragons showed grit to capture that championship by posting a 25-23, 20-25, 26-24 victory.

“Despite those early losses, the girls have kept it positive," Brandon said. “We’re young and still inexperienced in some spots, but we’re not giving up."

The coach added that the title run through the Kearney Invite made for an enjoyable bus trip home.

“We needed something like that," Brandon said. “Everybody was in pretty high spirits coming back."

Ratings update

Elkhorn South slips past Papillion-La Vista South into the No. 1 position in Class A. The Storm have not dropped a set this season and moved to 13-0 over the weekend by winning the Millard North Invitational.

The Titans are No. 2 this week despite a victory last Tuesday night at Lincoln Pius X. The Thunderbolts are No. 3, followed by Papillion-La Vista and Bellevue West.

Class B Omaha Skutt remains the overall No. 1 team after posting a pair of wins at a triangular Saturday in Kansas City. The SkyHawks’ lone match this week will be Tuesday at South Sioux City.

Also ranked No. 1 are Wahoo (C-1), Norfolk Lutheran Northeast (C-2), Pleasanton (D-1) and Diller-Odell (D-2). Those four teams have a combined record of 36-0.

Statistics due

Coaches of schools in Class A, Class B and the Omaha area are asked to submit updated statistics by Wednesday. If their players’ statistics are being updated on the MaxPreps website, then no action needs to be taken.

If a coach needs a stat sheet, e-mail me at mike.patterson@owh.com.

Future deadlines for statistics are Oct. 7, Oct. 29 and season’s end.

Top matches this week

Class A — Tuesday: Omaha Westside at Elkhorn South; Papillion-La Vista South at Millard North; Millard South at Millard West. Thursday: Papillion-La Vista at Millard West. Friday-Saturday: Lincoln Public Schools Classic.

Class B — Tuesday: Waverly at Norris, Beatrice at Wahoo. Thursday: Millard South at Beatrice. Saturday: Seward Invitational.

Class C-1 — Thursday: Wahoo at Oakland-Craig; Douglas County West at Fremont Bergan. Friday-Saturday: Gothenburg Invitational. Saturday: Ord Invitational.

Class C-2 — Tuesday: Fullerton at Humphrey St. Francis; Norfolk Catholic at Hartington Cedar Catholic. Thursday: Elm Creek at Overton triangular. Saturday: Stanton tournament; Tekamah-Herman Invitational.

Class D-1 — Tuesday: Fremont Bergan at BRLD. Tuesday-Thursday: Mudecas tournament.

Class D-2 — Thursday: Mullen, Garden County at Arthur County triangular.


All-Nebraska volleyball teams through the years

Omaha World-Herald: Nebraska Prep Zone

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Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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