(25-22, 25-27, 25-20)

LINCOLN — After letting one set slip away Saturday in the Lincoln Pius X Invitational final, Kearney Catholic wasn't about to let that happen again.

The Stars, ranked No. 1 in Class C-1, defeated Elkhorn South 25-22, 25-27, 2520 in the championship match. Kearney Catholic, the three-time defending C-1 champion, went 4-0 through the tourney to move its record to 18-0.

The Storm (12-6), ranked fifth in Class B, went 3-1 in the tournament.

Kearney Catholic won the first set and was on the verge of a sweep, leading 2421 in the second. But the Storm won the next four points and stayed alive with a 27-25 win.

"Our girls thought they had it,'' Stars coach Kris Conner said. "We didn't finish, and we didn't play aggressively at the end.''

Kearney Catholic led the third set 20-12 before Elkhorn South once again battled back. The Storm went on an 8-3 run to close within 23-20, giving Conner flashbacks of the second set.

"I was really concerned,'' she said. "We have a tendency to let down when we get a big lead, and we need to learn from that.''

A block by Courtney Shundoff put the Stars within a point of victory, and Kearney Catholic captured the title when a shot by Elkhorn South's Logan Connealy went wide.

Despite the loss, Storm coach Briana Ritter said she was proud of the way her team fought.

"Two weeks ago, I think our team would have laid down in that situation,'' she said. "We did a great job of fighting back.''

Elkhorn South continues to play without 6-foot-1 middle blocker Kelsey Green, who is nursing a sprained ankle. Ritter said she is hopeful Green will be back in action soon.

"It's a tribute to the girls that they've been playing so well without her,'' the coach said. "I think that should make us even better as a team.''

Junior Kylie Thiele led the Stars with 15 kills, including nine in the second set.

"I think we definitely earned a lot of respect by winning this tournament,'' she said. "To beat these kind of teams is something we can definitely build on.''

It was the first appearance by Kearney Catholic in the Pius Invite, an eight-team event that lured five ranked squads.

Jordan Streit added nine kills while Anna Squiers had eight and her sister Madison seven. The Squiers sisters also teamed for 40 assists.

Junior Sarah Swanson, a TCU recruit, led the Storm with 15 kills. Sophie Auch Moedy had nine kills and Josie Givens dished out 30 assists.

Both teams return to action Tuesday night. Kearney Catholic will play at C-1 No. 3 Grand Island Central Catholic and Elkhorn South will play at Blair.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1350, mike.patterson@owh.com twitter.com/MPattersonOWH

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