The parity in high school volleyball this season is even more evident as Class B Grand Island Northwest ascends to No. 1 in the Top 10 this week.
The Vikings improved to 16-0 during the weekend by capturing their own invitational. Northwest, the defending Class B champion, defeated Class C-1 No. 1 Columbus Scotus in pool play before beating Class B No. 3 Omaha Skutt in the final.
Having covered the prep beat since 2001, there’s been only one instance when a Class B team finished as the overall No. 1 — Lincoln Pius X in 2007. That lofty domain has been dominated at the end of the season by the Class A powers — Bellevue West (four times), Papillion-La Vista (three times), Papillion-La Vista South (three times) and Omaha Marian (once).
Whether the Vikings remain No. 1 until the end of this season remains to be seen.
Other Class B squads have been regulars in the Top 10 in recent years — Lincoln Pius X, Omaha Gross, Elkhorn, Gretna and Waverly, among others — though the overall No. 1 spot has eluded them.
That hasn't been the case in girls basketball, where Class B South Sioux City was a regular party-crasher among the Class A teams and did finish No. 1 in the Top 10.
A loss by previous No. 1 Millard West to Papillion-La Vista South in the Allison Weston Invitational on Friday opened the door for Northwest. The Vikings are one of three Class B teams in the top five, along with No. 3 Lincoln Pius X and No. 4 Skutt.
Again, this gets back to the parity that exists this season. And unlike some other sports, the top Class B teams often get a shot at Class A competition in invitationals — and have more than held their own.
Here's the Vikings' case for No. 1:
» Northwest appears to be even better than the 35-2 squad that captured the school's third state title in 2012.
» The Vikings are one of four undefeated teams. The other three — O'Neill St. Mary's, Bertrand and Giltner — compete in Class D.
» Coach Diane Rouzee's squad has played one Class A team (Kearney) but has defeated five teams in the Class B rankings.
» The win over Class C-1 power Scotus can't be ignored. It was the first loss of the season for the Shamrocks, who are seeking their 16th state title — the most of any school.
» Northwest's win over Skutt also looms large considering the SkyHawks have defeated Class A No. 2 Omaha Marian and Class A No. 3 Papillion-La Vista.
» There's no juggernaut this season in Class A. Several good teams, yes. Someone head and shoulders above everyone else (like Papio South the past three seasons)? No.
After the championship match of the Grand Island Northwest Invitational, Skutt coach Renee Saunders said she was impressed by the Vikings.
“They're huge,” she said. “They're all bigger than me, and they know what to do out there.”
Northwest had eight ace blocks against the SkyHawks in the two-set sweep. The Vikings also got a match-high eight kills from dynamic 5-foot-6 senior Erin Sorahan, one of the few Northwest starters who is shorter than Saunders.
“She's a stud athlete,” the coach said. “She does everything for them.”
Northwest, which returned five starters from last year's squad, also has the mindset to finish off opponents. The Vikings proved that late in the first set against Skutt.
Tied 21-21, Northwest won the next four points to capture the set and then won the second to end the match.
“We have drills in practice where we work to finish off sets,” Rouzee said. “You want to stay aggressive and not be afraid to make mistakes.”
Disagree with my logic? Let me know.
But for now, everyone else is looking up at the Class B Vikings.
Ratings update: Despite suffering its first loss, Millard West remains atop Class A. The Wildcats are followed by Marian, Papio, Millard North and Lincoln Southwest.
Chasing Northwest in Class B are No. 2 Pius and No. 3 Skutt. The Thunderbolts improved to 18-2 this past weekend, winning their own invitational.
Despite the loss to the Vikings, Scotus remains No. 1 in C-1. The Shamrocks play Tuesday against Columbus Lakeview, which upset Class B No. 6 Aurora on Saturday in the Aurora Invitational.
Freeman stays atop C-2 and unbeaten O'Neill St. Mary's remains No. 1 in D-1. The new No. 1 in D-2 is undefeated Giltner, which replaces previous top dog Mead.
Get well soon: Skutt Athletic Director Mike McMahon underwent extensive surgery last week and is convalescing.
Mike is one of the good guys in high school athletics and we all wish him a speedy recovery.
Top matches this week:
Class A — Tuesday: Papillion-La Vista at Millard North, 6:30; Grand Island at Lincoln Southwest, 6:30. Thursday: Omaha North at Millard South, 7. Friday-Saturday: Lincoln Northeast Invitational.
Class B — Tuesday: Lincoln Pius X at Aurora, 7. Friday-Saturday: SkyHawk Invitational at Omaha Skutt.
Class C-1 — Tuesday: Columbus Lakeview at Columbus Scotus; Kearney Catholic at Grand Island CC; Howells-Dodge at Wisner-Pilger triangular. Thursday, Saturday: Ashland-Greenwood tournament.
Class C-2 — Tuesday: Yutan at Mead; Palmyra, Elmwood-Murdock at Syracuse triangular; Norfolk Lutheran at Crofton. Tuesday, Thursday: Hastings St. Cecilia tournament. Thursday: Norfolk Lutheran at O'Neill SM; West Point GACC at Hartington CC; Freeman at Palmyra triangular. Saturday: Wayne at Wakefield triangular.
Class D-1 — Tuesday: Sandhills/Thedford at Twin Loup triangular. Thursday: Blue Hill, Giltner at BDS triangular; Overton, Southwest at Alma triangular. Saturday: BDS at Friend triangular.
Class D-2 — Tuesday: Ewing at Stuart. Thursday: Bertrand at Axtell. Saturday: Exeter-Milligan at Johnson County Central tournament.