LINCOLN — Determined performances by Halle Pribyl and Rylee Pieper powered Meridian back to the Class D-1 championship match.
Pribyl had 28 kills and Pieper added 22 kills as the second-rated Mustangs gutted out a 25-22, 23-25, 25-17, 23-25, 15-11 victory over No. 4 Blue Hill in Friday’s semifinal at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
While Pieper got Meridian (31-2) off to a fast start with seven first-set kills and had six kills in the fifth set, Pribyl was a driving force throughout. The 5-foot-10 sophomore middle hitter had three or more kills in every set, including six in the third and seven in the fourth.
“She’s just a competitor,” Meridian coach Bob VanWesten said of Pribyl. “She’s going to do whatever it takes. She’s going to run through a wall for you and we needed her. Because of the way (Blue Hill) was playing, we had to find ways to get kills instead of just going back and forth, and she found ways.”
Erin Johnson had 45 digs and 55 assists for the Mustangs, predominantly setting to Pribyl and Pieper, who combined for 50 of Meridian’s 68 kills. Though the Bobcats knew what was coming, coach Kristi Allen said the Pribyl-Pieper combination was difficult to stop.
“We had our libero, Brianna (Danehey), with her foot on the line, but they just hit good, solid, hard line shots,” Allen said. “We just haven’t seen that. We practiced it before we got down here, but we can’t imitate that in practice.”
Kacey Allen had 25 kills and Rylee Kohmetscher finished with 17 for Blue Hill (27-6). Jamie Bonifas recorded 50 assists and Danehey had 32 digs for the Bobcats, who play No. 3 BDS at 1 p.m. Saturday in a third-place match at Lincoln Southeast.
The Mustangs’ win set up a rematch of last year’s D-1 final against No. 1 Johnson-Brock (33-1) at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Devaney Center. Meridian is 0-2 this season against the Eagles, including a three-set district-final loss last Thursday.
“Both games we got down early and then we played better, but we were so far down,” VanWesten said. “To come back on (Johnson-Brock) … you’re not going to come very far. We need to stay with them early in the game and see what happens.
“We haven’t showed them anywhere close to our best, so hopefully we’ll have it (Saturday).”
Meridian (31-2)..........25 23 25 23 15
Blue Hill (27-6)...........22 25 17 25 11
M (kills-aces-blocks): Breanna Miller 0-0-0, Erin Johnson 2-2-0, Josiee Sobotka 5-2-0, Hailey Schafer 7-2-0, Jaicee Sobotka 0-2-0, Halle Pribyl 28-2-0, Rylee Pieper 22-0-0, Lauren DeLord 4-0-1. Totals 68-10-1.
BH: Brianna Danehey 0-1-0, Brooklyn Kohmetscher 4-1-0, Jamie Bonifas 1-3-0, Rylee Kohmetscher 17-0-0, Kacey Allen 25-0-0, Madison Menke 6-0-1, Emily Meyer 5-1-2. Totals 58-6-4.
Set assists: M 62 (Johnson 55, Jo.Sobotka 5, Miller 1, Pieper 1), BH 56 (J.Bonifas 50, Allen 3, B.Kohmetscher 2, Danehey 1).