After watching her team narrowly miss the state tournament in 2011, Omaha Westside coach Kim Eymann entered this season with fresh optimism.
But the Warriors have had their share of peaks and valleys, though Eymann is hopeful a recent five-match win streak has Westside pointed in the right direction.
“We’re playing better,” she said. “We started out well this season and then hit a bump, so we’re hoping that’s behind us now.”
Westside, which pops into the Class A ratings at No. 10, put together a solid season last year but lost to Lincoln Northeast in the district final. It was a tough way to end for a school seeking its first state tournament berth since 2002.
The return of five starters from that squad, including kill leader Capris Quaites and block leader Lauren Salerno, helped fuel this season’s optimism. But after going a respectable 4-2 in the season-opening Bellevue Invitational, the Warriors lost five of their next seven matches to fall below .500.
“I pulled out all the stops trying to turn things around,” Eymann said. “I had a feeling that we just weren’t quite playing up to our potential.”
In Westside’s defense, the Warriors play a tough schedule. They are 14-11, but those losses have all come against teams that were ranked at one time this season.
Eymann still expected more, and she finally got it in a match Oct. 2 against Lincoln Southeast. The fifth-ranked Knights prevailed in a tough five-setter, but the setback provided a positive for the Warriors.
“The girls were really bummed about losing,” Eymann said. “But we really played hard that night.”
Westside has gone 5-0 since, capturing the Lincoln High/Millard South Invitational this past weekend. That performance was a stepping stone for the Warriors, who will host the competitive Westside Invitational this weekend.
The eight-team tourney always draws a strong field, and this year is no exception. Six of the teams are ranked, including Class A No. 2 Omaha Marian and Class B No. 1 Omaha Gross.
“That tournament is always a battle,” Eymann said. “We’ll need to be at our best to hold our own, and hopefully we can pick up a few more wins.”
The coach added that she is counting on the leadership of her starting seniors — Quaites, Anna Skold, Maddie Pflug and Amelia Jensen — to help her team finish strong. If that happens, it’s possible Westside might secure that state tourney berth that slipped away last year.
“That’s definitely been an incentive for us,” Eymann said. “Our girls need to understand that every set counts, so we need to be focused for every match.”
Ratings update: There were a few changes in the Top 10, though No. 1 Papillion-La Vista South continues to lead the way.
The Titans boosted their record to 24-1 after posting three victories last week. Papio South, ranked No. 2 nationally by prepvolleyball.com, has not lost to a team from Nebraska since falling to Omaha Marian in the 2009 Class A state final.
The Crusaders remain No. 2 while Millard West climbs from fourth to third after defeating previous No. 3 Lincoln Southwest last week. The Silver Hawks drop to No. 4 while Class C-1 Kearney Catholic, one of only three undefeated teams left in the state, is fifth.
The newcomer in the overall ratings is Elkhorn South, which checks in at No. 10. The Storm captured the Eastern Midlands Conference tournament by defeating Class B No. 7 Waverly and Class B No. 5 Gretna.
Shamrocks rolling: Columbus Scotus kept up its winning ways, defeating Hastings St. Cecilia in the final of the Centennial Conference tournament.
Playing on its home court, Scotus defeated three tough teams — Grand Island Central Catholic, Lincoln Christian and the Hawkettes — to take down the title. Congratulations to coach John Petersen, last year’s national high school volleyball coach of the year.
Think pink: Elkhorn’s home match Oct. 22 against Gretna has been designated “Dig Pink Night” in support of breast cancer awareness.
Fundraising activities will include a raffle to win a volleyball signed by Olympian (and former Logan View and Nebraska standout) Jordan Larsen. Also available will be Larsen’s autographed “Play for Kae” Olympic T-Shirts.
Jordan’s mother Kae lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009.
Top matches this week:
Class A — Tuesday: Omaha Marian, Lincoln Pius X at Papillion-La Vista triangular, 5; Lincoln Southwest at Lincoln Southeast, 6:30. Thursday: Omaha Skutt at Millard North, 6:30. Friday-Saturday: Omaha Westside Invitational. Saturday: Papillion-La Vista South at Sioux City Heelan tournament.
Class B — Tuesday: Gretna at Norris, 6:30; Omaha Duchesne at Omaha Skutt, 7; Waverly at Elkhorn South, 7:30. Thursday-Saturday: Central Conference tournament (matches Saturday at Columbus Lakeview).
Class C-1 — Tuesday: Lincoln Christian at Columbus Scotus; Syracuse at Wahoo. Thursday: Omaha Concordia at Lincoln Christian. Thursday-Saturday: Nebraska Capitol Conference tournament (Saturday at Fort Calhoun).
Class C-2 — Tuesday: Hartington CC at O’Neill SM. Thursday: Sandy Creek at Hastings SC; LouPlatte Conference tournament final (at St. Paul).
Class D-1 — Thursday: O’Neill SM at Ewing; Heartland at Sutton. Saturday: East Husker Conference tournament final (at Logan View).
Class D-2 — Thursday: Fort Kearny Conference tournament final (at Overton). Saturday: Goldenrod Conference tournament final (at Burwell).
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