Of the Nebraska teams entered in the Millard North Invitational, the host Mustangs had the best day.

But the defending Class A champion, competing without one of its top players, couldn’t get past nationally ranked teams from Iowa and Kansas.

Millard North finished 2-2 in the nine-team tourney that included several ranked teams. The Mustangs were the only in-state squad to reach the three-team championship bracket after going 2-0 in round-robin play.

Coach Lindsay Peterson’s squad lost its championship bracket matches to Cedar Falls, Iowa, and St. James Academy of Lenexa, Kansas. Both teams are ranked in the Top 50 nationally by prepvolleyball.com.

“In the moment, the losses hurt,’’ Peterson said. “But it’s a tough tourney and I was thrilled with our effort and execution.’’

The Mustangs are carrying on without senior outside hitter McKenna Ruch, a first-team all-stater who broke her little finger in an early-season match. She’s recovering from surgery and is expected back in early to mid-October.

“I wish I had all my people,’’ Peterson said. “We sure could have used McKenna today.’’

After Millard North defeated Omaha Skutt and Omaha Concordia, the Mustangs faced Cedar Falls in their first championship bracket match. The Tigers rolled to a 25-21, 25-17 win with the help of Mississippi State recruit Akacia Brown.

Defending 5-A Kansas state champion St. James presented Millard North with its final test of the day and the Thunder posted a 25-15, 25-18 win. One of St. James’ starters, libero Ellie Bolton, is a Creighton recruit.

“You want to play the best,’’ Peterson said. “I think that can make your team better.’’

The first set against the Thunder was tied 5-5 before St. James went on a 6-0 run. The advantage grew to 12 points and the Thunder finished the set on a kill by senior Anna Feldkamp.

Millard North also stayed close early in the second set before St. James went on a 7-2 run to grab a 13-8 lead. The Mustangs could get no closer than four the rest of the way and eventually lost the match when a shot by Eve Fountain sailed long.

Senior Molly Plahn led the Millard North attack with six kills while senior setter Izzy Lukens had 12 assists and a pair of aces.

Feldkamp had nine kills to pace the Thunder and setter Marea Wortmann had 22 assists. Bolton, the Creighton recruit, had several digs and two ace serves.

St. James went on to win the tournament, defeating Cedar Falls in the three-set final, 16-25, 25-21, 25-18.

“We’re still a work in progress without McKenna,’’ Peterson said. “But I feel like we haven’t hit our peak yet, so we’ll need to keep showing improvement.’’

The 9-6 Mustangs return to action Tuesday night at Papillion-La Vista South.

St. James Academy.........25 25

Millard North..................15 18

SJA (kills-aces-blocks): Ashlyn Lovett 0-1-0, Marea Wortmann 2-2-0, Regan Bruggeman 1-0-2, Ellie Bolton 0-2-0, Ellie Wheeler 7-0-0, Olivia Lovett 5-0-0, Justine Bichelmeyer 2-0-0, Anna Feldkamp 9-0-1. Totals 26-5-3.

MN: Mollie Fee 3-0-0, Molly Plahn 6-0-0, Lauren Maciejewski 1-0-0, Eve Fountain 3-0-0, Izzy Lukens 2-2-1. Totals 15-2-1.

Set assists: SJA 23 (Wortmann 22, Bolton 1); MN 12 (Lukens 12).

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Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer. He also reports on horse racing for The World-Herald. Follow him on Twitter @MPattersonOWH. Phone: 402-444-1350.

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