BAYARD — Entering Friday night’s Class C-1, District 6 championship match with Chadron, the Ogallala volleyball team took the floor in a position it wasn’t used to being in — the underdog. In fact, the Indians were facing down the possibility of being eliminated from state contention for the first time in seven years.
Ogallala, though, kept the streak in tact after battling to a 3-2 win (25-19, 16-25, 25-20, 20-25, 15-9) over Chadron and advancing to the Class C State Volleyball Tournament on Thursday in Grand Island.
“I’ve been reminded that we were the underdog all year and this is no different,” Ogallala coach Steve Morgan said. “I was told early in the year that this would not be a good year for Ogallala volleyball. We have the girls that maybe aren’t the tallest but they have a lot of passion and I think it showed tonight.”
Neither team was able to get the upper hand in the first set until Ogallala mounted a four-point run midway through the set to take 19-14 lead. Senior Morgan Reed put down a kill followed by an ace serve from Sidney Mell to extend the lead to 21-15 before capitalizing on a pair of Chadron miscues, jumping out to a comfortable 23-16 lead before going on to the six-point win.
Chadron took advantage of a 9-3 lead early in the second set before opening it up down the stretch with a 7-1 run on strong play from Ashlyn Eitemiller’s pair of ace serves along with three straight kills by Ashlea Kerr, Eitemiller and Maaryn Davis to close out the set and even the match, 1-1.
Plagued with miscues in the third set, the Cardinals allowed Ogallala to jump out to a 10-4 lead early before clawing back later in the set on service runs by Brennan and Eitemiller to cut the Indian lead to 18-17. However, Ogallala received kills from Jessica Paloucek, Reed and sophomore Kendall Schroer to win the set and go up 2-1 in the match.
Morgan said he was pleased with his team’s effort in the match and lauded their ability to rise up against a solid Chadron team.
“They just had a hunger and a craving probably stronger than most teams that I’ve had to be good at this sport and they proved it tonight,” he said.
The fourth set featured four ties and six lead changes before Brennan gave the Cardinals a cushion from the service line with four straight points featuring two ace serves to open it up and give Chadron a 19-13 lead. Eitemiller closed the door on the set with a pair of kills to send the match to a fifth and final set.
Ogallala’s Ciara Voycheske gave her team its first glimpse of a berth in the state tournament in the fifth set when the senior served for five points with back-to-back aces, giving Ogallala a 9-5 lead in the set. Chadron closed the gap to 12-9, but the Indians tallied the final three points to win the set and the match.
Chadron coach Don Matt was pleased with the overall performance of his team in the loss, but pointed out that the passing game wasn’t as solid as it has been throughout the season.
“I thought we played pretty well for the most part. The one place I thought we kind of faltered in every set was the passing,” he said. “Our serve receive was great. When we would serve receive the ball, Ogallala had a tough time stopping us. But, when you pass the ball 10 feet or more off the net, you’re not going to get anything besides an outside swing. Our outside’s are pretty decent swingers, but it’s hard to set that when you’re chasing it so hard.”
Despite the loss, Chadron is in good position to secure a wildcard spot in next week’s state tournament. However, Matt said that his squad went into the match to win it outright and not have to chance a wildcard spot.
“We didn’t want to chance it. You never know when you get to district time,” Matt noted. “Unless you’re the number one seed in power points, no one wants to take that chance. Now we’ve played in some pressure games and we just have to handle that a little bit better when we come into next week and we’re there.”
Chadron was paced by Eitemiller with 21 kills, two ace blocks, five ace serves and five digs. Additionally, Kerr finished with 14 kills, four ace blocks and four digs; Brennan had nine kills, five ace blocks and two ace serves; Davis collected 11 kills and seven digs; and Maggie Earney added 51 set assists.
The Class C State Tournament bracket will be released today and can be viewed at www.nsaahome.org.