State volleyball: Stars make it four in a row
It became clear early on in the Class C-1 state volleyball tournament championship match between Ord and Kearney Catholic that the winning team would have to earn it.
Errors were few and far between Saturday as the two LouPlatte Conference rivals staged an epic five-set battle at the Devaney Sports Center in their third meeting of the season.
In the end, top-ranked Kearney Catholic’s Kylie Thiele broke a 7-7 tie in the deciding set with a kill, and the Stars survived a wild 25-17, 30-28, 21-25, 23-25, 15-12 win against the No. 2 Chanticleers to capture their fourth straight state title.
“It’s never easy,” Stars coach Kris Conner said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to bust down the door to get to the finals or have been there four straight times. This was a load off the seniors’ shoulders. I’m really proud of how they handled it.”
Early in the match it seemed as if the Stars would cruise to victory. Five kills each by Courtney Shundoff and Madison Squiers boosted the Stars to a relatively comfortable first-set win.
The second set turned into a slugfest, with both teams trading kill-for-kill.
Ord had five chances to close out the set, yet Kearney Catholic fended it off each time.
Two Thiele kills and an Anna Squiers kill thwarted set points. And after a Chanticleer hitting error, Kearney Catholic’s Sarah Oldfather pounded a kill to put the Stars up 29-28. An Ord attack on the following point was just long, giving the Stars a 2-0 lead in sets.
“The second set was a tough one,” Ord coach Wendy Alexander said. “Our kids showed a lot of character coming back after losing that set.”
Ord’s trio of strong hitters — Allison Welniak, Danielle Bruha and Andrea Carson — kept the Chanticleers within striking distance
Welniak added nine kills in the fourth set and Bruha chipped in with seven as Ord evened the match with strong attacks from all angles.
“There were a lot of big kills and big blocks out there,” Alexander said. “Both teams played a clean match. We had a few errors late we’d like to have back. We couldn’t get Carson the ball early in the match. Kudos to their defense for making it tough.”
Three Stars had double-digit kills, led by Thiele’s match-high 24 and Shundoff’s 17.
Madison Squiers, who finished with 13 kills and nine digs, reflected on the accomplishment of winning four straight titles.
“Not many people have one, so to have four is a great feeling and a great accomplishment,” she said. “We had some nerves in there, but we gutted out that long game (against Scotus) yesterday, so we knew we could come back and finish. Being a senior is kind of sad, but I’m really glad we got to end it on a good note.”