LINCOLN — Stanton’s quest to establish a true volleyball program appears to be on track.
One year after finishing as state runner-up in their first state appearance, the No. 3 Mustangs captured their first title with a 25-22, 25-23, 25-20 victory over Class C-2 No. 1 Diller-Odell at the Devaney Center.
“This is the decade that we have turned the corner for Stanton’s program — and I’m going to say it’s a program because several of our kids have been playing since third grade,” coach Tracy Kuester-Burtwistle said. “It takes a long time to switch a program around to get that winning tradition.
“I always tell people that we’re the ones enjoying this success, but what we stand for are those players who came before us, and we are representing for the players in the future.”
Kuester-Burtwistle said her team’s motto this season has been, “Sometimes you win. Sometimes you learn.” For the Mustangs, she said, those words couldn’t be more fitting.
“Last year was our first time down here, so I think we were just going through some of the motions a little bit,” Kuester-Burtwistle said. “We were working hard just figuring things out, just playing our games, and we weren’t really familiar with our venues and how everything looked.
“This year, this was our goal: To be No. 1. We had a couple of setbacks during the year and we missed a couple of our team goals, but every time we had a setback, we learned from it, we made adjustments and we moved forward.”
Though Stanton (31-6) wasn’t dominant in any one set, it made key plays when it counted. The end result launched a celebration for senior Jessie Brandl and her teammates.
“It felt amazing,” Brandl said. “We knew we had to work harder and harder this season to get that championship, and we pulled it off.”
Brandl led the Mustangs with 21 kills on a .472 attack percentage. Hannah Heppner had 13 kills and Bree Burtwistle had a triple-double (25 assists, 12 kills, 14 digs). Makenna Espinoza added 18 assists and MacKenzie Brandl had 23 digs.
Diller-Odell coach Kandice Jurgens said she was impressed by Stanton’s play.
“They looked better today than I had seen, but I think they were healthier now than anytime I had seen them before,” Jurgens said.
Kuester-Burtwistle said Stanton’s serving was the key to the match.
“We were going into this game, knowing it was going to be a very competitive team, and I think we took away a little bit of their offense because our serving was very aggressive,” Kuester-Burtwistle said. “That got them out of system so they weren’t able to make those great sets where they’re usually in front of that 10-foot line. That makes a big difference.”
Madison Jurgens had 18 kills, 12 digs and eight assists for Diller-Odell (33-4). Paige Vitosh recorded 22 assists for the Griffins, who were the D-1 runners-up last season and will lose five seniors.
“This is a tough one,” said Kandice Jurgens, whose daughter, Madison, is among the players who will graduate. “This is a special group of girls and they’ll surely be missed. They have definitely started something for our volleyball program, and hopefully it will continue.”
Stanton (31-6) ........ 25 25 25
Diller-Odell (33-4) ... 22 23 20
S (kills-aces-blocks): Jessie Brandl 21-1-0.5, Bree Burtwistle 12-2-0, Sally Brachial 0-1-0.5, Hannah Heppner 13-0-0, Katie Brandl 6-2-0, Allie Spence 1-0-0, MacKenzie Brandl 0-0-0, Makenna Espinoza 0-0-0.
DO: Mackenzie Vitosh 1-0-3, Madison Jurgens 18-0-2, Kirsten Bures 4-0-1, Paige Vitosh 4-0-0.5, Madison Hajek 6-0-0.5, Katie Zarybnicky 2-1-0, Hayley Denner 0-0-0.
Set assists: S 52 (Burtwistle 25, Espinoza 18, Brandl 6, Spence 3). DO 32 (Vitosh 22, Jurgens 8, Hajek 2).