Omaha Duchesne volleyball coach Katie Luther is excited about the 18-5 record her Cardinals have put together this season.
She also knows the toughest part of her team’s schedule is just ahead.
“We’ve been playing really well to this point,” she said. “Some matches have been better than others, but I think we’re ready for what’s ahead.”
The next two weeks will determine whether the Cardinals, ranked ninth in Class B, will earn their second-ever trip to the state tournament. The first came in 2009, the year before Luther took over as head coach.
“It’s a goal that we’d certainly like to achieve,” she said. “And if we’re able to do it, we’ll definitely have earned it.”
That late-season gauntlet of matches begins Saturday when Duchesne competes in the Lincoln Christian Invitational. That will feature several ranked Class C schools, including the host Crusaders.
Then comes the River Cities Conference tournament on Oct. 27, which will include Class B No. 1 Omaha Gross and No. 3 Omaha Skutt. That tournament will lead Duchesne into postseason play and the tough B-1 district that includes Gross, Skutt and No. 7 Gretna.
“We know we’ve got some very important matches just ahead of us,” Luther said. “But we’re going to keep pushing and try to do our best.”
Luther was optimistic about this season following a 20-10 mark in 2011. The Cardinals stayed home last year after losing to Gross in the district final.
Five starters returned from that team, including senior setter Amanda Foje. The Creighton recruit is having another solid season and says chemistry has been an important part of the team’s success.
“The team gets along really well,” she said. “It’s been a fun season, and we just want to keep it going as long as we can.”
Foje was a member of the school’s only state tourney team during her freshman year.
“That was such an amazing experience,” Foje said. “I hope to share that feeling again with this team.”
Luther said the 5-foot-6 Foje, who will be a defensive specialist for the Bluejays, has played an important role once again this season for Duchesne.
“She’s a great team leader,” the coach said. “She has so much energy and intensity, and just an overall enthusiasm for the game.”
Other returning starters for the Cardinals are senior Tori Lee, juniors Elise Fulcher and Anna Reed and sophomore Emily Foje — Amanda’s younger sister. Senior Emily Crnkovich and junior Amber Vaughan also have played key roles.
Duchesne has been idle since a five-set road loss against Skutt on Oct. 9. The Cardinals won the first two sets.
“We fought hard, but it just kind of slipped away,” Luther said. “It was a tough loss for our girls, but hopefully that will make us a better team in the future.”
Luther, a former defensive specialist at the College of St. Mary, said her team appears to be ready for the challenge ahead.
“Every match the rest of the way is so important for us,” she said.
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