AT LINCOLN NORTH STAR
No. 6 Syracuse (26-3) vs. No. 3 St. Paul (33-1), 1:30 p.m.: The Rockets, who haven’t reached state in five years, have three players with more than 240 kills. The once-beaten Wildcats, making their second state trip in three years, are led by senior Hayley Fox (489 kills).
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No. 2 Lincoln Lutheran (32-3) vs. No. 7 Columbus Scotus (19-9), 3:30: The Warriors, back at state for the second straight year, are led by junior Marriah Buss (551 kills). The Shamrocks lead the state in championships with 15 but have not scored one since 2011.
No. 4 Wahoo Neumann (29-3) vs. No. 5 Grand Island Central Catholic (30-4), 5:30: The Cavaliers, who finished third in 2016 but missed state last year, count on senior Kelsie Cada (379 kills). The Crusaders, last year’s state runner-up, are led by UNO recruit Megan Woods (462 kills).
No. 8 Wayne (25-9) vs. No. 1 Wahoo (32-2), 7:30: It’s been five years since the Blue Devils reached state, but a district-final win over Mitchell did the trick. The defending champion Warriors have three players — Kyla Swanson and sisters Elly and Mya Larson — who combined for almost 1,000 kills this season.
AT LINCOLN SOUTHWEST
No. 3 Blue Hill (29-2) vs. No. 6 Hastings St. Cecilia (22-10), 1:30 p.m.: This will be the third straight trip to state for the Bobcats, who have three players with more than 200 kills. The Hawkettes, who missed state last year for the first time in seven years, are led by junior Tori Thomas (305 kills),
No. 2 Stanton (29-1) vs. No. 7 Battle Creek (22-10), 3:30: The Mustangs, who are making their fourth straight trip to the tourney, have two players — Bree Burtwistle and Jessie Brandl — with 287 kills. The Bravettes, who have five players with at least 100 kills, reached state for the first time in 10 years.
No. 1 Superior (29-2) vs. No. 8 Freeman (21-11), 5:30: Nebraska recruit Kalynn Meyer pounded 447 kills this season for the defending champion Wildcats. The Falcons, making their first appearance since 2015, are led by senior Kayla Haynes (428 kills).
No. 4 Thayer Central (26-6) vs. No. 5 Hartington Cedar Catholic (28-4), 7:30: The Titans, who are back at state after a six-year absence, are led by 5-7 Emily Welch (467 kills). The Trojans, making their third straight trip, are seeking redemption after losing to Superior in last year’s five-set final.
Defending champion Wahoo can rely on experience in a loaded C-1 state volleyball field
Wahoo will head to this week’s state volleyball tournament in an unfamiliar role — defending champion.
The Warriors won their first title last year, capping a 34-2 season with a sweep of Grand Island Central Catholic. Wahoo did not drop a set in three state matches and graduated just three seniors.
“It’s nice to have that experience back,’’ coach Trish Larson said. “We also have some newcomers who have contributed, so it’s been a really good mix.’’
Wahoo enters this year’s tourney with a 32-2 mark, losing only to Class B Omaha Duchesne and Class C-1 rival Lincoln Lutheran. The top-ranked Warriors split a pair of matches with second-ranked Lutheran, winning the most recent one Oct. 20.
Larson said her team is prepared for its second straight trip to state and fourth overall.
“We’re going in composed and confident,’’ she said. “We know that we’ve had a target on our back all season, but the girls have handled it well.’’
One newcomer who has made an immediate impact has been Mya Larson. The 5-11 freshman — daughter of the coach — leads the team with 385 kills.
Also putting up big numbers are Kyla Swanson (316 kills) and Mya’s older sister Elly Larson (282). Sophomore setter Elle Glock, a Southern Cal recruit, has 992 assists.
Coach Larson said she expects another dogfight when the C-1 portion of the tourney opens Thursday at Lincoln North Star. Other top contenders include 32-3 Lincoln Lutheran, 33-1 St. Paul, 29-3 Wahoo Neumann, 30-4 Grand Island Central Catholic and 26-3 Syracuse.
Also in the field are Columbus Scotus and Wayne. The Shamrocks have won a state-leading 15 championships, while the Blue Devils have won 11 of their past 13 matches.
“The field is strong,’’ Trish Larson said. “But hopefully our girls can rise to the occasion.’’
The coach added that it’s been a season-long goal to return to state and try to defend that title.
“I know the team isn’t content yet, and that’s good,’’ she said. “We’ve tried to keep getting better as the season goes along, and I think we’ve done that.’’
The Warriors open the tourney at 7:30 p.m. Thursday against Wayne.