In what is believed to be a volleyball first, Millard West ascends to the top spot in The World-Herald Top 10.
The Wildcats have certainly earned that honor as the only remaining unbeaten team in Class A. Millard West boosted its record to 10-0 over the weekend, capturing the Millard North Invitational.
Despite her team’s strong performance in the first few weeks, Wildcats coach Erin Byrd is maintaining a cautious attitude toward this season.
“There are a lot of evenly matched teams out there,” she said. “It’s really wide-open, and I think that’s what is going to make this season fun.”
Byrd, in her fifth season as head coach, guided Millard West to a 29-7 mark last season. The Wildcats reached the state tournament for the fourth time but were defeated — like every other Nebraska Class A team in 2012 — by eventual state champion and nationally ranked power Papillion-La Vista South.
But the three-time defending state champion Titans graduated their three Nebraska recruits, which has opened the door for several eager teams this season. Byrd rattled off several squads that she thought had a legitimate shot at a state title.
“I don’t want to take anything away from what Papio South accomplished,” the coach said. “But there’s no sense of domination this year and there’s more of a sense of optimism.”
That’s certainly the case at Millard West, which graduated just three players from last season. That included setter Cassidy Yong, who dished out more than 800 assists.
Her role is being filled by junior Tiffany Wentworth, who had 26 assists in the Wildcats’ two-set sweep of Lincoln North Star in the Millard North Invitational championship. Wentworth had 67 assists last season as the setter in waiting.
Returning starters are seniors Alexis Anderson, Morgan Rademacher, Kamesha Young, Emily Leichner, Erin Sosnowchik and junior Kira Shapiro. Young, the team’s top returning hitter, didn’t play in the title match because of an ankle injury.
Sosnowchik and sophomore Cassidy Loberg each had seven kills to lead the way against the Navigators.
The result of that tournament was the latest confirmation how unpredictable this season could be. The teams that reached the final of the Bellevue Invitational the previous week — Millard North and Omaha Skutt — failed to reach Saturday’s championship.
“I feel like all of Class A is beating up on each other right now,” Byrd said. “We’ve been fortunate to come out on top of some of our matches, but I was really proud of the way we played in this tourney.”
The Wildcats face two more challenges this week, with a road match Tuesday night at fifth-ranked Papillion-La Vista and a home match Thursday night against third-ranked Millard North.
Those are challenges that Byrd and her team embrace.
“It’s interesting to look at the scores every night and see who beat who,” she said. “We just want to keep humble and take each match one at a time.”
Ratings update: Class A Millard West was just one of the new No. 1s. Also ascending to the top slot this week are Hastings St. Cecilia (C-2) and O’Neill St. Mary (D-1).
The Hawkettes are 4-2, but their losses have come against Class B Aurora and Class C-1 Lincoln Christian. They move up after previous No. 1 Norfolk Lutheran was defeated by Stanton at the Wakefield tournament.
The Cardinals are 3-0 after wins over Plainview, Ewing and Chambers/Wheeler Central. St. Mary advanced to the top spot after North Platte St. Pat’s lost at home against Broken Bow.
Holding on to their No. 1 ratings are Grand Island Northwest (B), Columbus Scotus (C-1) and Mead (D-2).
LPS Classic: The big tournament among the larger schools this week is the Lincoln Public Schools Classic, to be played Friday and Saturday at Lincoln Southeast and Lincoln Southwest.
Even though Millard West is not competing, many of the ranked Class A teams are. Lincoln Pius X, Elkhorn and Elkhorn South will be among the rated Class B teams competing.
Top matches this week:
Class A: Tuesday: Papillion-La Vista South at Omaha Marian, 7:15. Thursday: Millard North at Millard West, 7.
Friday-Saturday: LPS Classic, at Lincoln Southeast and Lincoln Southwest.
Class B: Tuesday: Omaha Skutt at Lincoln Pius X, 7; Norris at Waverly.
Class C-1: Tuesday: Wayne at West Point GACC; Ogallala at North Platte. Thursday: Thayer Central at Minden; Gothenburg at Grand Island CC.
Class C-2: Tuesday: Blue Hill at Hastings SC. Tuesday-Thursday: Mudecas tournament, at SCC-Beatrice. Thursday: Hartington CC at Norfolk Lutheran; Wahoo at Yutan. Saturday: Stanton Invitational; Alma, Superior at Blue Hill triangular.
Class D-1: Tuesday: Wakefield at Howells-Dodge triangular; North Platte St. Pat’s at Gothenburg; Southwest at Wauneta-Palisade.
Class D-2: Tuesday: Silver Lake at Red Cloud. Thursday: Bertrand at Southern Valley triangular.