Millard North’s McKenna Ruch entered this season with high hopes.
The 6-foot-2 senior was coming off a junior year in which she helped lead the Mustangs to their second Class A title in three years. Her performance landed her a spot on the All-Nebraska first team.
Ruch also was ready to take a bigger leadership role after the graduation of seven seniors, including four starters.
But those plans changed Saturday at the Bellevue West Invitational. The UNO commit went up for a block at net against perennial Iowa power Hull Western Christian and broke the pinkie on her right hand.
The injury, which will require surgery Friday morning, will sideline the hitter up to six weeks.
“It was kind of a freak thing but we have to live with it,” Millard North coach Lindsay Peterson said. “She’s one of the best kids I’ve ever coached, on the court and off.”
The injury occurred late in the best-of-three quarterfinal against Hull. Ruch stayed in for the final few points as the Mustangs prevailed 25-22 in the third set to win.
“I tried to pull her out but she wanted to tape it up and stay in,” Peterson said. “She served once and got a stuff block at the net with her left hand.”
But it was obvious Ruch couldn’t continue and the Mustangs dropped their semifinal against top-ranked Papillion-La Vista. Ruch went to the hospital and received the bad news before returning to the tournament.
“Everyone was bummed when I came back and told them the news,” she said. “There were some tears shed but it’s going to be OK.”
Peterson said it was difficult news for everyone.
“That really took the wind out of our sails,” she said. “But it’s not the end of our season and we’ll just have to carry on the best we can.”
Peterson said it was especially tough on senior setter Izzy Lukens, the team’s other returning first-team all-stater.
“I talked to Izzy separately because those two are such close friends,” the coach said. “They have a special chemistry between them.”
Ruch is no stranger to injury, having broken her right thumb during club season her freshman year. But surgery wasn’t needed and she eventually returned to the Millard North lineup.
She pounded 283 kills that season to help the Mustangs win their first state title since 1987. Ruch had 340 kills as a sophomore for the Class A runner-up and 362 last year as the 38-2 Mustangs won the championship.
The senior was off to a strong start this season, smashing 70 kills in five matches before the injury.
Since then, Ruch is trying to maintain a positive attitude. She says she will be a vocal leader for her team before hopefully returning to the lineup in mid-October.
“I’m going to support my teammates the best I can,” she said. “And I’m already doing my own little workouts to stay in shape.”
Peterson said she likes the way her team has played without Ruch, including a win over Omaha Marian in the third-place match Saturday at Bellevue West.
“I was extremely thrilled the way we responded,” she said. “We’ve changed the lineup a couple of times already and we just need to stay strong while McKenna is out.”
The Mustangs have a challenging week, which includes a rematch Thursday night at Papillion-La Vista.
“I keep reminding the girls that it’s not where we are now that counts but where we finish,” Peterson said. “Hopefully we’ll be an even stronger team late in the season because of this adversity.”
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From left, Emily Bressman of Omaha Marian, Kalynn Meyer of Superior, Jaiden Centeno of Millard West, Lindsay Krause of Omaha Skutt, McKenna Ruch of Millard North and Marriah Buss of Lincoln Lutheran. Not pictured: Millard North’s Izzy Lukens.
From left: Johnson-Brock’s Fallon Stutheit, Omaha Marian's Lily Heim (honorary captain), Superior’s Kalynn Meyer, Omaha Skutt’s Lindsay Krause, Marian’s Emily Bressman and Papio South’s Taliyah Flores. Not pictured: Malcolm’s Jaela Zimmerman.
2016: Back row from left: Jaela Zimmerman, Malcolm; Taliyah Flores, Papillion-La Vista; Elise Baumann, Millard North; Fallon Stutheit, Johnson-Brock. Front row from left: Sarah Swanson, Elkhorn South; Alli Schomers, Omaha Skutt; Brooke Heyne, Omaha Skutt.
2015: From left: Olivia Nicholson, North Platte; Raegan LeGrand, Papillion-La Vista South; Allison Schomers, Omaha Skutt; Brittany Witt, Omaha Marian; Elizabeth Loschen, Omaha Marian; Hali McArdle, Gretna; Sarah Swanson, Elkhorn South.
2014: From left: Priscilla O'Dowd, Papillion-La Vista; Jessica Peters, Papillion-La Vista; Raegan LeGrand, Papillion-La Vista South; Megan Wickey, Omaha Concordia; Carley Remmers, Freeman; Tiani Reeves, Gothenburg; Brittany Witt, Omaha Marian.
2013: The All-Nebraska football and volleyball teams came together for a photo shoot, and the cover was designed to look like a Facebook page with the teams taking one big selfie.
2012: From left: Lexi Elman, Omaha Marian; Kelly Hunter, Papillion-La Vista South; Amber Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South; Sydney Townsend, Lincoln Pius X; Alyssa Frauendorfer, Humphrey; Michaela Mestl, Kearney Catholic; Kadie Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South.
2011: From left: Kelly Hunter, Papillion-La Vista South; Kadie Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South; Amber Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South; Lauren Sieckmann, Elkorn South; Katie Brand, Grand Island Central Catholic; Cassie Effken, Lincoln Pius X; Kate Elman, Omaha Marian.
2010: From left: Emily Wilson, Omaha Gross; Kadie Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South; Amber Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South; Sara McClinton, Millard North; Chelsea Albers, Papillion-La Vista; Kelly Hunter, Papillion-La Vista South; Lauren Sieckmann, Omaha Marian.
2009: Standing from left: Emily Wilson, Omaha Gross; Kadie Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South; Sarah Kemp, Bellevue East; Amber Rolfzen, Papillion-La Vista South; Tenisha Matlock, North Platte. Front row from left: Lauren Sieckmann, Omaha Marian; Julianne Mandolfo, Omaha Marian.
2008: From left: Natalie Braun, Lincoln Pius X; Chelsey Feekin, Papillion-La Vista; Hayley Thramer, Ewing; Jamie Straube, Johnson County; Gina Mancuso, Papillion-La Vista; Lauren Cook, Lincoln Pius X.
2007: From left: Tali Fredrickson, Grand Island Central Catholic; Caitlin Mahoney, Omaha Marian; Chelsey Feekin, Papillion-La Vista; Keelin Bourne, Millard North; Gina Mancuso, Papillion-La Vista; Lauren Cook, Lincoln Pius X.
2006: Top from left: Catie Wilson, Omaha Gross; Brooke Delano, Bellevue West; Lauren Cook, Lincoln Pius X. Bottom from left: Gabi Ailes, Bellevue West; Ann Armes, Grand Island; Gina Mancuso, Papillion-La Vista.
2005: From left: Katie Swenson, Omaha Gross; Angela Hlavaty, Lincoln Lutheran; Brooke Delano, Bellevue West; Gabi Ailes, Bellevue West; Brooke Bartek, Lincoln Northeast; Erica Burson, Omaha Gross.
2004: Front row from left: Amanda Gates, Columbus; Jordan Larson, Logan View; Alison Jacobs, Elkhorn; Rachel Schwartz, Lincoln East. Back row from left: Kyla Roehrig, Papillion-La Vista; Korie Lebeda, Omaha Marian.