LINCOLN — Johnson-Brock joined an exclusive club Saturday at the state volleyball tournament.
The Eagles won their third consecutive Class D-1 title with a 25-22, 25-17, 22-25, 25-23 victory over Meridian. Only nine other schools have accomplished that feat in any class, but coach Tera Stutheit said the latest championship didn’t come without some anxiety.
“That was one of the toughest matches we’ve had,” she said. “Meridian wouldn’t go away and things were a lot more tense than I had hoped.”
Johnson-Brock used the 1-2 punch of Fallon Stutheit and Kaitlynn Simon to put away the Mustangs. Stutheit, the coach’s daughter, had 19 kills and Simon had 18.
Mattie Nichols added 10 kills and setter Brynn Westenburg dished out 46 assists.
“I told our girls to keep playing with confidence,” Tera Stutheit said. “I thought our whole team, especially our seniors (Simon and Westenburg), did a great job.”
The match against Meridian was the latest installment of D-1’s top volleyball rivalry. The Mustangs were runners-up last year and again Saturday, though they made the Eagles work.
Meridian held a 21-17 lead in the first but Johnson-Brock went on an 8-1 run to capture the set.
The second set was tied 11-11 before the Eagles went on a 10-1 run to assume command. They finished off the second set on a Meridian hitting error.
The Eagles bounced back to capture the third set, winning when a Johnson-Brock serve sailed long.
Riding that momentum, Meridian opened a 14-10 lead in the fourth. But as champions often do, Johnson-Brock dug deep to respond.
Two Stutheit kills and one by Westenburg drew the Eagles within one and Johnson-Brock eventually tied it on a Nichols kill. But the Mustangs wouldn’t go away, opening a 23-21 advantage with the intention of forcing a fifth set.
Johnson-Brock then rattled off four straight points to stun Meridian and take the match. Simon had a kill and an ace, Jayse Koehler a kill and Stutheit — a recruited Nebraska walk-on — delivered the final kill.
“Those last two sets, our team played its heart out,” Meridian coach Bob VanWesten said. “We needed a couple of breaks at the end and we just couldn’t get them.”
Sophomore Halle Pribyl led the Mustangs with a match-high 21 kills while senior Rylee Pieper had 15.
“Meridian is an awesome team,” Fallon Stutheit said. “But we stayed mentally tough, and that was the difference.”
Meridian (31-3) ……………. 22 17 25 23
Johnson-Brock (34-1) …… 25 25 22 25
M (kills-aces-blocks): Erin Johnson 0-1-3, Hailey Schafer 4-1-2, Halle Pribyl 21-0-3, Rylee Pieper 15-0-0, Lauren DeLord 4-0-4, Josiee Sobotka 6-3-0, Jaicee Sobotka 1-2-0.
JB: Fallon Stutheit 19-2-4, Brynn Westenburg 3-0-1, Mattie Nichols 10-3-0, Kaitlynn Simon 18-2-3, Jayse Koehler 4-1-1, Kallyn Antholz 0-0-2.
Set assists: M 48 (Johnson 39, Jo. Sobotka 7, Ja. Sobotka 2), JB 51 (Westenburg 46, Simon 4, Nichols 1).