The defending Class A volleyball champion is still alive.
Millard North prevailed in a five-set thriller Tuesday night against host Omaha Marian to stave off postseason elimination. The Mustangs won the A-7 district semifinal match 27-29, 25-19, 25-15, 17-25, 17-15 in front of a packed house at Marian.
“I’m so proud of our kids,’’ Millard North coach Lindsay Peterson said. “Marian is so good and that match could have gone either way.’’
Adding to the drama were the circumstances surrounding the match and the unusual situation of having two of the top teams in Class A squaring off in the first round of districts.
The Mustangs were seeded fourth in the four-team district after forfeiting 14 wins for using an ineligible player. Millard North’s drop in the wild-card standings meant it had to win the district to qualify for state.
Peterson’s squad will try to do just that in the district final Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Marian.
For the Crusaders, it was a tough first-round assignment. Marian, which hasn’t missed state since 2000, now must pin its tourney hopes on snagging the lone Class A wild card.
“It’s out of our hands now,’’ Marian coach Amy McLeay said. “But we’re going to practice tomorrow and hope for the best.’’
After the teams split the first four sets, the match hinged on the 15-point fifth set. Millard North held a slight edge most of the way in that final set until the Crusaders took their first lead at 11-10 when a Mustangs shot went long.
It was tied at 11, 12 and 13 until Katie Kilzer’s kill gave Marian a 14-13 lead and a chance to finish off the match. But the Crusaders were called for a net violation on the next point and the match was tied again.
A kill by McKenna Ruch gave Millard North its first match point but another shot by the Mustangs sailed out to tie it at 15. Millard North finally ended it after a serving error by Marian and a block on the final point by Molly Plahn.
Plahn, one of five seniors on the team, said every player knew what was at stake.
“It was really nerve-racking,’’ she said. “We’ve all worked really hard to get to this point and we felt like we had nothing to lose.’’
Plahn played a major role in the victory with 13 kills and nine blocks, including the one that ended the match.
“I think on that last point we were all so nervous,’’ she said. “We told each other that it was time to end the match right now.’’
The Crusaders captured the first set 29-27, a cliffhanger that set the tone for the match. Kilzer had seven kills in the opening set for Marian, including one on the final point.
Millard North bounced back to win the next two sets but Marian stayed alive by winning the fourth. That set the stage for the dramatic fifth set.
“We knew it would be a tough match and we knew it would probably go five sets,’’ Peterson said. “But I felt we’d be ready because we’ve been in a lot of tough situations this season.’’
UNO recruit McKenna Ruch led the Mustangs with 19 kills while Eve Fountain had 15. Mollie Fee chipped in 12 kills while setter Izzy Lukens had 55 assists.
Payton Kirchhoefer had 20 kills to pace Marian while Kilzer had 16 and freshman Amanda Loschen 15. Setters Maria Ring and Sarah Montague combined for 59 assists.
“I told our kids I was nothing but proud of them,’’ McLeay said. “It hurts to be on this side but we still have a chance to get to state.’’
Millard North (23-10) … 27 25 25 17 17
Omaha Marian (21-14) … 29 19 15 25 15
MN (kills-aces-blocks): Kate Galvin 0-1-0, Mollie Fee 12-0-2, Molly Plahn 13-0-9, Lauren Maciejewski 2-1-0, Eve Fountain 15-1-0, Izzy Lukens 3-0-1, McKenna Ruch 19-2-1.
OM: Ellise Nelson 0-1-0, Ellie Miller 0-1-0, Katie Kilzer 16-1-0, Sarah Montague 1-0-0, Bri Eilderts 1-0-1, Payton Kirchhoefer 20-0-2, Maria Ring 0-1-0, MC Daubendiek 4-0-2, Sophi Steffes 2-0-2, Meredith Mueller 8-0-1, Amanda Loschen 15-1-4.
Set assists: MN 59 (Lukens 55, Galvin 3, Maciejewski 1); OM 62 (Ring 30, Montague 29, Kilzer 4, Miller 1).
Other Class A results
A-1 at Papillion-La Vista
Grand Island def. South Sioux City 25-20, 25-14, 25-15
Omaha Westside def. Bellevue East 15-25, 22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 15-12 Papillion-La Vista over Grand Island 25-13, 25-9, 25-12
Championship Wednesday: Papillion-La Vista (36-1) vs. Omaha Westside (20-15), 6 p.m.
A-2 at Elkhorn South
Omaha South def. Omaha Bryan 25-23, 25-13, 19-25, 19-25, 15-6
Kearney def. Columbus 25-15, 25-20, 25-19
Elkhorn South def. Omaha South 25-14, 25-8, 25-5
Championship Wednesday: Elkhorn South (29-7) vs. Kearney (22-15), 6 p.m.
A-3 at Lincoln Pius X
Lincoln North Star def. Lincoln Northeast 25-27, 24-26, 25-22, 25-15, 15-13
Lincoln Southeast def. Norfolk 25-20, 20-25, 16-25, 25-21, 15-13
Lincoln Pius X def. Lincoln North Star 25-18, 25-14, 25-13
Championship Wednesday: Lincoln Pius X (29-6) vs. Lincoln Southeast (21-15), 6 p.m.
A-4 at Gretna
Omaha Northwest def. Omaha Benson 25-23, 25-6, 25-16
Elkhorn def. Lincoln East 18-25, 25-17, 25-14, 25-18
Gretna def. Omaha Northwest 25-12, 25-12, 25-11
Championship Wednesday: Gretna (26-10) vs. Elkhorn (20-14), 6 p.m.
A-5 at Millard West
Lincoln High vs. Omaha North, 4:30 p.m.
Bellevue West def. North Platte 16-25, 25-19, 25-20, 25-18
Millard West def. Lincoln High 25-13, 25-12, 25-17
Championship Wednesday: Millard West (20-11) vs. Bellevue West (20-15), 6 p.m.
A-6 at Millard South
Millard South def. Omaha Central 25-17, 25-10, 29-25, 25-10
Papillion La-Vista South def. Omaha Burke 25-11, 25-15, 25-6
Championship Wednesday: Millard South (25-11) vs. Papillion La-Vista South (20-17), 6 p.m.
A-7 at Omaha Marian
Millard North def. Omaha Marian 27-29, 25-19, 25-15, 17-25, 17-15
Lincoln Southwest def. Fremont 25-18, 25-12, 25-20
Championship Wednesday: Lincoln Southwest (22-13) vs. Millard North (24-10), 6 p.m.