Class D: Nebraska high school first-round state volleyball matchups

Nebraska high school first-round state volleyball matchups for Class D-1 and D-1, as analyzed by World-Herald staff writer Mike Patterson. All games are Thursday.

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CLASS D-1

AT LINCOLN EAST

No. 4 Pleasanton (29-2) vs. No. 5 Nebraska Christian (26-4), 1:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs, making their first state tourney appearance in 20 years, has an offense that features four players with at least 175 kills. The Eagles, who finished fourth at state last year, rely on big hitter Grace Langemeier (362 kills).

No. 1 Fremont Bergan (30-4) vs. No. 8 North Platte St. Patrick’s (24-8), 3:30 p.m.

The Knights’ big hitter is senior Lexie Langley (344 kills), but senior setter Allison Dieckmann (876 assists) also plays a key role. The Lady Irish reached state for the first time since 2012 after a four-set upset over Norfolk Lutheran in a district final.

No. 3 Humphrey/Lindsay HF vs. No. 6 Diller-Odell (26-7), 5:30 p.m.

The Bulldogs, making their first state tourney appearance since 2013, rely on 6-foot-2 senior Taya Beller (360 kills, 63 blocks). The Griffins, who missed state last season after reaching the tourney three straight years, have a double threat in juniors Emily Swanson (263 kills) and Mackenzie Vitosh (262 kills).

No. 7 Cambridge (25-5) vs. No. 2 Johnson-Brock (29-3), 7:30 p.m.

Radio: B103 (103.1 FM, b103.fm and ncnsportsnow.com)

The Trojans, who haven’t been to state in 10 years, can count on junior Korynn Clason (375 kills). The three-time defending state champion Eagles again are led by Fallon Stutheit, one of the top hitters in the state with 407 kills.

CLASS D-2

AT LINCOLN SOUTHEAST

No. 8 Falls City Sacred Heart (22-11) vs. No. 1 Ewing (29-2), 1:30 p.m.

Radio: B103 (103.1 FM, b103.fm and ncnsportsnow.com)

The Irish reached state for the first time in five years, rallying for a four-set win over Kenesaw in the district final. The Tigers made noise at state last year, reaching the final before falling to Exeter-Milligan.

No. 5 Exeter-Milligan (23-8) vs. No. 4 Wynot (23-4), 3:30 p.m.

The defending champion Timberwolves have been to state five straight years and won five state titles dating to 2009. The Blue Devils, the state runners-up in 2016, have five players with at least 130 kills.

No. 2 BDS (27-4) vs. No. 7 Cody-Kilgore (25-5), 5:30 p.m.

The co-op of Bruning-Davenport/Shickley, making its fourth state tournament appearance, is led by Jadyn Kleinschmidt (288 kills). The Cowboys, led by Addison Johnson (354 kills), made their only previous state tourney appearance in 1984.

No. 3 Mullen (27-3) vs. No. 6 CWC (25-7), 7:30 p.m.

This will be the eighth appearance at state for the Broncos, who are still seeking their first tournament victory. The co-op of Chambers/Wheeler Central will be making its fourth state appearance and first since a fourth-place finish in 2016.

Last season’s result fuels Fremont Bergan’s drive for a state volleyball title

Losing at the state tournament can be powerful incentive for the next season.

That’s the case at Fremont Bergan, which was ousted in the first round of the 2017 tournament.

“Our goal was to get back to state,” Knights coach Sue Wewel said. “The team has been on a mission this year.”

Bergan saw last season end with a four-set loss to Stanton in Class C-2. The Knights are competing in D-1 this year, and the move has been a positive.

Wewel’s squad is 30-4 and enters state as the No. 1 seed. The Knights’ only losses have come against C-1 powers Wahoo Neumann (twice) and Lincoln Lutheran (twice).

“We had a lot of players back this year so I knew we had it in us to be successful,” the coach said. “And I think getting there last year has prepared us mentally for this year.”

The Knights also have one of the state’s top coaches. Wewel has 649 career wins, 16th on the state’s career list and seventh among active coaches.

Bergan is led by 6-foot senior Lexie Langley, who has 344 kills. Also putting up big numbers have been senior Haley Kempf (244 kills), junior Allie DeGroff (193) and sophomore Lauren Baker (140).

Senior setter Allison Dieckmann has 876 assists.

Wewel hopes the strong season will lead to a state championship, something the school has never achieved.

“I know that everyone is excited about that possibility,” she said. “The girls have worked so hard and they’re ready to go give it their best shot.”

But the Knights have a huge obstacle looming on the other side of the eight-team bracket. Second seed Johnson- Brock will be seeking its fourth consecutive title, something that has happened seven times in tourney history.

The teams played Sept. 29 in the final of the Fort Calhoun Invitational, with Bergan sweeping the match.

“More than anything else, it showed that we could compete with them,” Wewel said. “But we’ve got some tough matches to play before maybe seeing them again and we’re not looking past anyone.”

Bergan opens tourney play at 3:30 p.m. Thursday against North Platte St. Patrick.

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