The season-opening Bellevue West Invitational doesn’t seem that long ago, yet here we are.
It’s state tournament time, and there are still a lot of questions to be answered.
Can Class B Omaha Skutt extend its state-record championship win streak to eight?
Does Elkhorn North have what it takes to dethrone Skutt and take home the title?
Will Class C-2 Lincoln Lutheran, the only undefeated team left in the state, finish off its perfect season?
Can overall No. 1 Papillion-La Vista South capture its third title in four years while navigating a tough Class A field?
Will first-year coach Jessica Baker lead her talented Lincoln Southwest squad to its first state title?
For the answers to these and other questions, we must turn to the trusty crystal ball. We’ve been on a nice run lately while defeating colleague Stu Pospisil the past two seasons in our annual volleyball-football prediction battle, but he seems intent on revenge.
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Still, we’ll give it our best shot and see what happens come Saturday night when the season draws to a close after the last final at the Devaney Center.
Much has been written about Class A parity, but it seems Papillion-La Vista South has upped its game the past few weeks. Its performance in the nationally televised GEICO Volleyball Invitational and demolition of Gretna a few days later made me a believer, but three teams in particular – Southwest, Omaha Westside and surging Omaha Marian – scare me.
First round: Papio South over Marian; Papillion-La Vista over Lincoln East; Lincoln Southwest over Millard West; Omaha Westside over Gretna.
Semifinals: Papio South over Papio; Southwest over Westside.
Final: Papio South over Southwest.
Elkhorn North and Skutt have been ranked 1-2 most of the season, and it’s possible they’ll meet for the first time in the final. The SkyHawks will have to navigate past old friends Waverly and perhaps Norris to reach the championship, but Skutt and coach Renee Saunders always seem to find a way to take home the hardware.
First round: Elkhorn North over Grand Island Northwest; Bennington over Seward; Skutt over Waverly; Norris over Sidney.
Semifinals: Elkhorn North over Bennington; Skutt over Norris.
Final: Skutt over Elkhorn North.
In perhaps the most wide-open class, there is little separation between top seed North Bend and No. 8 seed Adams Central. Tough call here but the slight edge goes to Grand Island Central Catholic and longtime coach Sharon Zavala to survive a rugged road and take home the hardware.
First round: North Bend over Adams Central; Malcolm about Gothenburg; Minden over Douglas County West; GICC over Kearney Catholic.
Semifinals: North Bend over Malcolm; GICC over Minden.
Final: GICC over North Bend.
dark horse: Kearney Catholic.
Lincoln Lutheran captured Class C-1 last year and has been even tougher in Class C-2, rolling to 37 straight victories. The win streak is at 44 and must reach 47 to finish off the perfect year, but second-seeded Fremont Bergan – which has not dropped a set in its last nine matches – looms on the other side of the bracket.
First round: Lincoln Lutheran over Bayard; Oakland-Craig over Southwest; Bergan over Clarkson/Leigh; Cross County over Amherst.
Semifinals: Lincoln Lutheran over Oakland-Craig; Bergen over Cross County.
Final: Lincoln Lutheran over Bergan.
dark horse: Clarkson/Leigh.
We were ready to call for Norfolk Catholic to take home its first title but late-season losses to Pierce and Hartington Cedar Catholic have given us pause. Several tough teams here but we’ll stay with the Knights – who were upset in the first round last year – to make amends.
First round: Norfolk Catholic over Nebraska Christian; BDS over SEM; Cedar Catholic over Cambridge; Maywood-Hayes Center over Meridian.
Semifinals: Norfolk Catholic about BDS; Cedar Catholic over Maywood-Hayes Center.
Final: Norfolk Catholic over Cedar Catholic.
Howells-Dodge is the top seed and has a D-1 title from last year to prove it can handle the bright lights of state. Diller-Odell and big hitter Karli Heidemann – she leads the state with 626 kills – could be a big hurdle in the semifinals but we’ll stick with the Jaguars to get it done.
First round: Howells-Dodge over Stuart; Diller-Odell over Shelton; Overton over O’Neill St. Mary; Humphrey St. Francis over Falls City Sacred Heart.
Semifinals: Howells-Dodge over Diller-Odell; St. Francis over Overton.
Final: Howells-Dodge over St. Francis.
dark horse: Sacred Heart.
Photos: All-Nebraska volleyball teams through the years