With all this talk of Class A parity this season, it’s time to add another school to the mix.
Lincoln Southeast emerged as the winner of the rugged Lincoln Northeast Invitational last week, going 7-0 in the round-robin event. The Knights are rewarded with a move into the overall Top 10 and a four-spot boost in the Class A ratings.
“My kids fought and didn’t use fatigue as an excuse,” Southeast coach Annie Rice-Healey said. “We knew there were going to be times when we were tired, but so was everyone else.”
The quality of competition at the two-day tourney also proved Southeast belongs with the Class A elite. The Knights defeated ranked teams Omaha Marian, Lincoln Pius X, Millard South and Papillion-La Vista South en route to the title.
“I didn’t know going in if 7-0 was possible for us or any team,” Rice-Healey said. “I thought 6-1 was a realistic goal, but we really played well.”
The young Knights — there are only two seniors on the roster — appeared to be in rebuilding mode entering this season. Southeast had to replace its three biggest hitters — Taylor Lewis, Kinslie Tekolste and Sydney Taylor — who combined for almost 1,000 kills in 2012.
Also lost to graduation was libero Danielle Kostal, who had almost 600 digs.
“Those four graduates were huge contributors,” Rice-Healey said. “But I knew we had some talented young players coming back.”
Two of those players are junior outside hitters Meagen Roth and Tyra Douglas. Roth had to wait her turn before getting her shot while Douglas, who had 118 kills last season as a middle blocker, has moved to the outside this year.
The duo combined for 22 kills in the tourney win over Pius.
Another key returnee is junior setter Kylee Wurster, who had more than 800 assists last season.
Rice-Healey, a former standout setter at Lincoln East, said she knew her team would go through some growing pains this season. The Knights went 3-3 in the season-opening Bellevue Invitational, but the coach saw progress.
“We reached the championship bracket and we didn’t do that last year,” she said. “And it seems like we’ve just kept getting better this season.”
The Knights are seeking to maintain the momentum generated by last year’s state tourney appearance, the school’s first since 2002. Southeast finished 27-9 but ended the season on a down note, losing to then-Class A Pius in a first-round match.
“Losing in the first round like that is big motivation for this year,” Rice-Healey said. “These girls want to compete for a state title.”
Without a clear-cut Class A favorite, that’s certainly a possibility.
“I think once you get to state, anybody could win it,” Rice-Healey said. “People might have been underestimating us, but I know we’re definitely in that mix of top teams.”
Ratings update: Class B’s Grand Island Northwest remains the overall No. 1 while Class A No. 1 Millard West stays at No. 2. Rounding out the top five are Lincoln Pius X, Omaha Marian and Papillion-La Vista.
Waverly jumps into the overall Top 10 at No. 7 after winning the SkyHawk Invitational at Omaha Skutt. The Vikings went 7-0 last week to make that move.
In Class B, Omaha Duchesne cracks the ratings at No. 10. The Cardinals are riding a nine-match win streak but will be tested Saturday in a home match against Skutt.
Columbus Scotus remains No. 1 in Class C-1 while Hastings St. Cecilia is the new No. 1 in C-2, following a loss by previously top-ranked Freeman. O’Neill St. Mary stays atop the Class D-1 rankings while unbeaten Bertrand slips past Giltner into the top spot in D-2.
Sorry, Pius: It was stated in some editions last week that no Class B team had finished as the overall No. 1 ratings team, which wasn’t correct. Lincoln Pius X turned the trick in 2007 on the strength of its two regular-season wins over Class A champion Papillion-La Vista.
Statistics needed: Coaches of teams in Class A, Class B and the Omaha-area are asked to submit updated statistics by Wednesday. They may be emailed (firstname.lastname@example.org) or faxed (402-444-1238) or they may be submitted to the MaxPreps website being used this season by the Nebraska School Activities Association.
Top matches this week:
Class A — Tuesday: Millard West at Lincoln Southwest, 6:30; Lincoln North Star at Lincoln Northeast, 6:30; Papillion-La Vista at Papillion-La Vista South, 7:15. Thursday: Lincoln Southwest at Millard North, 6:30; Lincoln Northeast at Grand Island, 6:30. Saturday: Millard South Invitational, 9; Lincoln Northeast, North Platte at Lincoln Southeast double dual, 1.
Class B — Tuesday, Thursday: Eastern Midlands Conference tournament. Thursday: Hastings at Aurora. Saturday: Omaha Skutt at Omaha Duchesne triangular.
Class C-1 — Tuesday: Lincoln Lutheran at Wahoo; Gothenburg, Ogallala at Valentine triangular. Thursday: Lincoln Christian at Fillmore Central; Ogallala, Broken Bow at Minden triangular. Thursday, Saturday: Centennial Conference tournament (Saturday at Grand Island CC). Saturday: Wisner-Pilger Invitational.
Class C-2 — Tuesday: Mead at Freeman; Centura at Hastings SC; Norfolk Lutheran at Shelby/Rising City triangular. Thursday: Blue Hill at Thayer Central; Wayne at Crofton; Syracuse at Freeman. Saturday: Howells-Dodge at Humphrey/Lindsay HF triangular.
Class D-1 — Tuesday: Howells/Dodge at Stanton; Southwest, North Platte SP at Chase County triangular. Thursday: Deshler at Friend triangular; Cedar Valley at Twin Loup triangular.
Class D-2 — Tuesday: Silver Lake at Friend triangular. Thursday: Giltner, Shelby/Rising City at McCool Junction triangular.