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Several local volleyball players were honored with all-Niobrara Valley Conference honors when the all-conference list was released on Tuesday.
Elgin Public/Pope John seniors Allyson Wemhoff and Anna Heilhecker, along with Clearwater/Orchard senior JoCee Johnston and Elkhorn Valley senior Amber Miller, were named first team all NVC. Ewing's Miranda Summers, Ashley Koenig, Tiana Thramer and Sidney Stallbaum joined the four Antelope County players of the first team.
Earning second team honers included EPPJ senior Kaylee Martinsen, OC senior Katie Stearns, EV senior Hannah Ollendick, Neligh-Oakdale seniors Kristen Snodgrass and Haley Kerkman and Ewing's Jaidyn Schindler and Brenna Wagner.
Honorable mention nods went to Santee's Hannah Sheridan, Niobrara/Verdigre's Megan Cook, N-O junior Amanda Dietz, EPPJ senior Grace Rittscher and junior Haley Zegers, OC sophomore Avery Cheatum, EV senior Sierra Rystrom and junior Olivia Nall and Ewing's Summer Schroeder.
Numerous Clearwater/Orchard football players were named to the D2-5 all-district team after a stellar 2018 season.
First team offensive players were seniors Chris Kester at quarterback, Ryan Wilhelm at offensive line and Blake Hoke at end.
Clay Thiele (defensive line) and Jacob Long (linebacker) earned first-team defensive honors.
Junior Eli Macke (running back), senior Zach King (defensive line) and senior Tommie Peed (defensive line) were named to the second team.
Senior Donaven Nolze, along with juniors Gage Switzer and Houston Marino, earned a spot on the honorable mention team.
The third-ranked Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family volleyball team proved to be too much for Elgin Public/Pope John in the Class D1 district championship match Saturday at Boone Central.
"I don't want to take anything away from Humphrey," stated EPPJ coach Tina Thiele-Blecher. "They are a very good team and we knew coming in they were a good team, but I feel like our girls maybe made them better than what they were. We might have psyched ourselves out a little bit. The (Taya) Beller girl is very hard hitting. We had her blocked a couple of times, but we didn't settle in, pass the ball and play Wolfpack ball like we can. It's tough to lose a season, but it's even tougher when you don't play your best ball to end the season."
It was a back-and-forth battle to start the match. Leading 7-6, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 7-1 run to take a 13-6 advantage.
EPPJ responded with a 6-1 run to cut the deficit to three. Kayce Kallhoff recorded two kills during the run.
Leading by three, H/LHF ended the set on an 8-1 run and captured the set, 25-15, on a Taya Beller kill.
A hot start by the Lady Bulldogs propelled them to a 25-17 set two win.
H/LHF went on a 7-0 run after surrendering the opening point and led by as much as 10 during the set.
The Lady Wolfpack chipped away at the lead, but the big hole was too much to overcome.
After two Kaylee Martinsen kills tied the score at two in the third set, the Lady Bulldogs went on a 13-3 run to claim a 15-5 lead.
EPPJ rallied to draw within five at 23-18, but H/LHF won the set, 25-17, and the match on a Lady Wolfpack error and kill by Beller.
"The girls have done that (rallied) all year and I'm very thankful for the girls," Thiele-Blecher said. "They keep working, keep digging and never give up. I really thought that third set was not going to be the prettiest one, but we battled. You have to be thankful for that and there's some life skills that have been taught."
Beller led the Lady Bulldogs collecting 15 of H/LHF’s 30 kills, and adding three aces and 18 digs. Allie Schneider had six kills, 14 digs, 20 assists and three aces, Addison Schneider contributed three kills and a block and McKenna Roelle pitched in two aces.
Martinsen led the Lady Wolfpack in kills with nine, blocks with four and added eight digs. Kallhoff accounted for five kills, seven digs and two blocks, Haley Zegers recorded four kills, 14 digs an ace and two blocks, Allyson Wemhoff tallied 14 digs and 18 assists, Anna Heilhecker had 12 digs and two aces and Grace Rittscher added five digs.
Humphrey Lindsay Holy Family (27-4) advances to the state tournament Thursday at Lincoln East.
Elgin Public/Pope John ends its season with a 21-12 record. The Lady Wolfpack had another solid season, finishing third in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament, behind CWC and Ewing who both advanced to the state tournament with wins on Saturday, and was the district runner-up.
EPPJ graduates four seniors. Heilhecker, Martinsen, Wemhoff and Rittscher all suited up for the Lady Wolfpack one final time.
"You hate to see your seniors leave and this group is special," Thiele-Blecher concluded. "This group of four's work ethic during the summer helped develop the program. Other than Grace coming in, these girls have been in districts every year or the year we went to state on a wild card. They have a lot to be proud of. We're going to miss them tremendously and we wish them the best. We're ready for some of the younger ones to step up and take their place."
Elgin Public/Pope John 15 17 17
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family 25 25 25
Elgin Public/Pope John - Haley Zegers 4k, 1a, 2b, 14d; Kaylee Martinsen 9k, 4b, 8d; Allyson Wemhoff 14d, 18sa; Grace Rittscher 5d; Kayce Kallhoff 5k, 2b, 7d; Harlie Bode 2k, 2b, 1d; Kirsten Krebs 1b, 2d, 1sa; Ally Selting 1d; Anna Heilhecker 2a, 12d.
For 25 years, the same face has roamed the course coaching the Neligh-Oakdale cross country. Next fall, a new face takes over to lead the Warrior runners.
On Oct. 30, assistant cross country coach, Kali Bohling, was promoted to head coach by the Neligh-Oakdale administration following head coach Rick Eickholt's official resignation on Oct. 29.
Bohling replaces Eickholt, who started the Warrior cross country program in 1994 and has served as the head mentor longer than Bohling has even been alive.
“The timing is right for me as a young teacher and young professional,” Bohling stated. “I’m blessed to be at Neligh-Oakdale right now where I can pursue both my passions, in agriculture and athletics. We graduate a lot of seniors this year and coach Eickholt thought the time was right with a new young team to turn over the reigns. We bring back a lot of talent next year and we hope to build off that going forward. It’s a great opportunity to learn and a great opportunity to learn and grow as a coach.”
Bohling was a volunteer coach in 2017 and served as Eickholt’s first paid assistant this past season.
“Her knowledge is certainly going to work to take it to the next level,” Eickholt said. “In the last five or six years, our program has taken a really positive and upward turn. We’ve had some of the best seasons we’ve had in the last five or six years, both team wise and individually. Coach Bohling brings a whole different perspective as far as her experiences as an athlete and coach. I expect the program to do nothing but continue to grow and improve.”
The new mentor was influential in the Warriors success this past season, helping guide Cole Belitz and Emma Bixler to individual Niobrara Valley Conference titles and qualifications to the state meet. Belitz placed 12th at the state meet and is the first-ever medalist in N-O cross country history.
“This year with coach Bohling as an assistant and being able to talk about things, such as workouts, situations with athletes and etc., it really made my job a lot easier,” Eickholt said. “With coach Bohling being able to move up, having experienced some of those things and still having somebody to kick ideas around with, I think it’s going to be great.”
Bohling’s passion for cross country started when she ran for her alma mater from 2009-12.
“I ran for four years in high school for Logan View Public Schools where I had the great pleasure of running for coaches Gary Samuelson and Joe Foust,” Bohling said. “Both have played a huge role in my life. The program where I came from is probably where my passion comes from for the sport. I never had any intentions of running and actually told them in eighth grade at our home meet this is the last thing you’ll ever find me doing. Several years later, I ran for four years and now I’m coaching it. It’s a passion. Every student gets to participate, you get to cheer for athletes running by, no matter what school you’re from, and no one sits the bench. What draws me to the sport is it’s a full participation and you can be as good as you want to be in the sport.”
After high school, Bohling graduated from the University of Nebraska Lincoln in 2017 and is the current FFA advisor and agricultural educator at Neligh-Oakdale.
Despite being one of the youngest coaches in any sport in the area, the UNL graduate brings a great deal of experience to the program as a former runner and serving under several quality coaches as an assistant.
“She had a nice cross country background athletically when she was in high school and she ran for a good program,” noted Neligh-Oakdale Athletic Director Ron Beacom. “She had the chance to work with a quality program in Crofton when she was student teaching. She has a really good background and is a high quality person.”
The 24-year-old coach believes her youth may be a benefit as well for the program.
“Something I try to do and something that was modeled to me by my coaches in high school is my coaches always ran with us,” Bohling recalled. “I want to continue to be able to do that and I think that really helps. You feel the same things the athletes do. When your legs are tired, their legs are tired as well. That’s an added benefit and it’s new life (to the program). Coach Eickholt doesn’t give himself enough credit for the knowledge he has. He has a lot of knowledge he has passed down to me. I have new ideas and there will be new things going forward, but for the most part, the program will look the same going forward into next year.”
Bohling’s knowledge and familiarity with the Warrior runners also made her the perfect choice to take over for Eickholt.
“There is always that perception you’re going to take someone from within,” Beacom said. “That’s not always the case and what’s best for a program, but we are fortunate to have Miss Bohling with us right now. We’re really lucky because there are a lot of programs, and even programs in our own building, that don’t have an assistant that’s ready to be a head coach. But in this case, we could have made it a national search and Kali would have been the right person for our job.”
With several strong runners back next year for the Warriors, Bohling expects to take Neligh-Oakdale to another level and continue what Eickholt started.
“We have a lot of young really promising talent,” Bohling concluded. “We have a runner right now who feels they came up a little short (last year), but I think the sky is the limit for them, along with the other ones who come back. Hopefully, we take it to the next level to make it to the state meet and there’s another opportunity for growth. Some things are going to get started here in the offseason. If you want to be a good runner, you have to run all year round and that’s something we’re doing with our offseason training program starting in a week or so. We will rely on our young talent and there are some athletes walking the halls that aren’t anything right now, but we want to encourage them to join a team and contribute to what we have. That could really help us going forward.”
For the entirety of the Neligh-Oakdale cross country program, there has always been one person associated with Warrior cross country. That person is taking a step back and passing the torch on.
In a letter to the administration, Rick Eickholt officially announced last week that he is stepping down as head cross country coach. In a phone call with the N-O administration the next day, they confirmed Eickholt’s resignation.
“I’ve looked for a way to lessen some of my school responsibilities the last couple of years,” Eickholt stated. “I didn’t want to give up the cross country program unless I knew I would be able to move it on to someone who is interested, knowledgeable and someone who would work hard to keep the program working.”
Athletes across Eickholt’s 25-year coaching career reflected on the impact their coach had on their athletic careers.
“He has been a really big mentor for me,” said N-O senior Cole Belitz. “I can talk to him about anything I need to. He’s the one that got me going with cross country. After junior high I was going to do football, but thought I was too tiny to do football. So I wasn’t going to do anything in the fall. Then he came to my house and convinced me give cross country a try. He constantly helped me improve, was never negative, always positive and he is really nice. You can talk to him about anything, whether it’s track and cross country, or just anything.”
Starting the program
Eickholt has been a staple of Neligh-Oakdale athletics and joined the Warrior teaching staff as an elementary teacher in 1985.
In the early 1990s, the Warrior track and field coaches decided to convince the school to start a cross country program to improve the distance portion of the track team.
“I did all of the leg work and getting the program started. I thought our distance coach for track and field was going to be the head cross country coach,” Eickholt said. “I wasn’t expecting to be the cross country coach, but I’ve learned to love it. I was not a distance runner in high school. I was a sprinter, jumper and hurdler and, unfortunately, I still have that mentality from time to time. That’s why it was so great to have another distance person to talk about workouts and other things. I thoroughly enjoyed my time as the cross country coach. I got to know some wonderful people, I’ve had some wonderful young men and women to work with, I’ve seen some outstanding athletes in the area and around the state and it’s been a positive experience all the way around.”
Since the inaugural season in 1994, the Neligh-Oakdale cross country program has grown and improved to become one of the most competitive cross country programs in the area.
“The growth that I have seen in the program is shown in the competitiveness and ability of younger runners,” said 1997 N-O graduate Jeff Carpenter. “Course and all-time records continue to fall. I’m not sure if I am even in the Top 10 of anything anymore.”
Time To Retire
Eickholt waited to pass the baton to the right person to take over the program as assistant coach, Kali Bohling is now tasked with the leading the program. Coach Bohling brings a whole different perspective as far as her experiences as an athlete and coach. “I expect the program to do nothing but continue to grow and improve,” Eickholt said.
Bohling said she appreciated the advice Eickholt gave during her two years of volunteer and assistant coaching.
“It’s been a great opportunity to work under coach Eickholt,” Bohling said. “It’s been a great learning opportunity to see how he’s run his program, from a coach who’s been in the business for a long time. How he works with athletes and how he presents information to the athletes before a meet, is something I’ll take away and look to incorporate next year.”
Eickholt has coached seven conference champions, 69 all-conference runners, 19 state qualifiers, the 2013 girls team state qualifying and one state medalist.
“He is the one who started the program and it’s been his from the beginning,” Bohling added. “He has been the only one behind the wheel. The culture he has built, is something the athletes take a lot of pride in. The foundation has been laid really well.”
Eickholt’s final season was a special year. Numerous records fell and there were several program firsts, including the school’s first state medalist.
“It was really special,” Eickholt noted. “It has been something we had as a goal at day one, to bring home a medalist at the state meet. We didn’t really advertise that a great deal, but it didn’t take long once we were into the season to realize that had a real strong possibility of becoming a reality. Because of Cole and Emma’s (Bixler) hard work, they both had great seasons. Probably the two greatest individual seasons in school history. That makes it a lot easier to say, ‘Hey, this is the right time to move on.’ ”
Eickholt capped his coaching career with Bixler and Belitz each winning an individual conference crown and earning a state qualification. Belitz captured a state medal and a spot on the podium with a 12th-place finish at the state meet.
“It’s pretty cool,” Belitz said on ending Eickholt’s career with a state medalist. “I knew going into this year this was going to be his last year as head coach. Our goal was to make state as a team because he’s never had a boys team qualify. But we got thrown into a really hard district. We realized that chance went down a lot, but being able to go out with another first in school history for him, is pretty cool.”
Eickholt has been a renaissance coach throughout his career. During his 37 years of coaching, the Iowa native has served as an assistant or head coach for cross country, track, football, wrestling, baseball, softball and basketball.
“The consistency is always a good thing,” said N-O Athletic Director Ron Beacom. “He is a high charactered person and has the kids’ well being at the center of his philosophy. It’s always a good thing and if you can get someone like that and keep them for a number of years; it’s good for the school and great for the program.”
Eickholt’s impact has gone far beyond the course and the track.
“Coach Eickholt was always very realistic and encouraging,” Carpenter said. “He and I always had good honest conversations about my workouts and whether I should do my own workout versus that of the team, his expectations for me each meet, about what to expect from my competition at meets, about where to take advantage of my strengths during meets, and how to serve as a leader for the team. Coach and I have continued to have a good relationship through the years that crossed over to my time on the Board of Education and fundraising efforts to replace the track.”
Eickholt continues to stay in contact with former athletes.
“I wasn’t thinking about running in college until the coach from Concordia found I was coming here and he did some research on me. He found me and wanted me to run for him,” said 2017 N-O graduate Kasi Grosserode, who just finished her sophomore season of cross country at Concordia University. “When I told Eickholt about it he thought it was incredible. Coach Eickholt said, ‘Let’s do some work and see what you can do.’ ”
All three runners reflected on memorable stories about their former coach.
“I remember a lot of laughter during my time running for him,” Carpenter recalled. “I think some of my best memories with coach took place much more recently when we both worked on fundraising efforts for the track.”
It is hard to believe that anyone ever got upset with the cross country mentor, but Grosserode recalled such a time.
“We had our watermelon run and every year we have a river run,” Grosserode said. “One year, we went out for this river run and we were done and having watermelon afterwards. We were messing around in the river after practice and a lady came up and was so mad at us. She came storming over to him (Eickholt) and she was yelling at him for letting us do this. She was all up in his face. We thought he was going to get hit or something. It was so funny after the fact. We were all laughing after she left.”
Belitz remembers a different side of coach that not many people saw. “I remember watching movies at his house for pre-meet meals and his girly little laugh he did all the time,” said the N-O senior. “That was pretty funny. I remember him getting mad at a lady walking through (our practice) looking for her dog and he yelled at her and told her to get out of practice. That was pretty funny.”
Although it may be the end of Eickholt’s head coaching career in cross country, the longtime elementary teacher still plans on helping with the program and continuing to serve as the head track and field coach.
“I’m actually looking forward to being told what to do instead of making the decisions myself,” Eickholt said. “There were moments throughout the season I was emotional about the situation. But within the last couple of weeks, I’ve really come to grips with it. I’m at ease with it and the program is in great hands. It’s not like I’m completely walking away from the program. I’m still going to be able to contribute in certain ways. I’m really comfortable with where we are right now and with where the program is going to go in the future.”
Turnovers, penalties and mistakes at the wrong time cost the Clearwater/Orchard football team in its second-round matchup against Lawrence-Nelson Wednesday afternoon at Lawrence in the Class D-2 state playoffs.
The Cyclones turned the ball over three times and committed almost 50 yards in penalties.
"It was just not our day," stated OC mentor Jeff Shabram. "Lawrence-Nelson is a really good, tough and physical team. I guess today just wasn't our day."
OC struck first with a one-yard TD plunge by Jacob Long and a Chris Kester two-point conversion run for an 8-0 lead.
L-N answered on the ensuing drive when Lane Heikkinen sprung free for 37-yard score and two-point conversion.
Following a failed fake punt attempt, the Raiders executed a textbook double pass as Blake Janda found Brody Himmelberg for a 33-yard touchdown.
The Cyclones struck back with a 22-yard TD run by Kester and a Long two-point conversion reception to take a 16-14 advantage.
After a goal line stand by OC, the Cyclones fumbled on their first offensive play of the drive and L-N cashed in with a six-yard TD reception by Himmelberg, to take a 20-16 lead into the half.
Following a three-and-out to start the second half for the Raiders, OC methodically drove the field, 62 yards in 10 plays, and reclaimed the lead on an Eli Macke 16-yard touchdown reception.
On the Cyclones next drive, Kester connected on a 25-yard TD pass to Blake Hoke to extend the green and black's lead to 30-20.
L-N responded on its next drive with a five-yard touchdown reception by Janda.
Macke set up the Cyclones with great field position after returning the ensuing kickoff to the 40, but the Raiders recorded their fourth sack of the game to put OC in a fourth-and-long and forced a punt.
Heikkinen found an open Trevin Lotinek, who broke a tackle, and scampered 30 yards to the house. A PAT gave the home team a 33-30 advantage with 6:11 remaining in the contest.
With still plenty of time remaining, OC went to its potent running attack and drove to the L-N 35-yard line with two minutes remaining in the game.
On fourth-and-one, Kester was stuffed on a quarterback sneak and the Cyclones turned the ball over on downs.
The Raiders ran out the clock, to secure the upset, and advance to the state quarterfinals, where Lawrence-Nelson (7-3) travels to Kenesaw Tuesday.
Heikkinen led the way with more than 100 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and four total touchdowns. Himmelberg caught five passes for more than 70 yards and two scores.
Long led the Cyclones with 108 yards rushing and a touchdown. Macke accumulated more than 93 yards of offense and a receiving touchdown and Kester ran for 44 yards, passed for 66 yards and collected three total TDs. Donaven Nolze had a monster game defensively after recording numerous tackles for loss and a sack.
Clearwater/Orchard ends its season with an 8-2 record. Twelve seniors played their final game for the Cyclones. Tristan Ahlers, Austin Pokorny, Ryan Wilhelm, Jaccob Bennett, Codey Snider, Tommie Peed, Zach King, Nolze, Kester, Long, Hoke and Clay Thiele helped guide OC to its first district title as a consolidated program in 2018.
"The seniors are awesome and they're great," Shabram concluded. "I've loved coaching them every day, preparing with them, game planning with them and they're great. We're going to miss them, we're really going to miss them."
OC 8 8 14 0 - 30
L-N 14 6 0 13 - 33
Clearwater/Orchard - Passing: Chris Kester 5-11-1 66 yards.
Rushing: Jacob Long 21-108. Eli Macke 18-74. Chris Kester 18-44.
Receiving: Blake Hoke 1-25. Eli Macke 2-19. Clay Thiele 1-19. Jacob Long 1-3.
After a thrilling 5-set victory in subdistricts, the Wolfpack volleyball team advances to the district final Saturday where they will face the Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family Bulldogs.
The D1-3 district final is slated to be played at 3 p.m. at Boone Central in Albion on Saturday, Nov. 3.
Elgin Public/ Pope John was seeded #14 and HLHF has been seeded #3.
For the second time in less than a week, the Elgin Public/Pope John volleyball team rallied from a 2-0 deficit against Elkhorn Valley to win in five sets.
"This time of year all that matters is winning and we did that tonight," stated EPPJ coach Tina Thiele-Blecher. "I was nervous in that second set that they were thinking 'Oh it happened Friday night (EPPJ rallies to win) and it will happen again.' I told the girls you can't bank on that and you have to start playing ball. We got a little fire and we settled down. We were so tense in the first two sets, a couple of bad errors and you could see them freaking out a little bit."
The Lady Wolfpack rallied to defeat EV to finish third in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament last Friday, and Tuesday's come-from-behind victory sealed a spot in the Class D-1 district title match.
"This was a tough one," said EV coach Emily Vaughn. 'We knew it would not be easy, but you are never prepared to lose in five (sets). This game is such a mental game, and I felt like sometimes tonight we lacked the confidence because we weren't very consistent. We wanted to keep attacking, but I felt we had a hard time making adjustments. Credit EPPJ and their defense. We had seen it before, but they really didn't let any balls drop."
The win moves EPPJ one win closer to a state tournament appearance.
"We are always going to try to keep getting better each and every day," commented EPPJ senior Anna Heilhecker. "We're going to keep pushing each other. encouraging each other. and we're going to keep going."
The Lady Falcons opened the match with a 25-21 set win.
Trailing by two, EV used a 13-2 run to claim an 18-9 lead. EPPJ rallied to draw within one, but the Lady Falcons held on and won the set on a Hannah Ollendick kill.
A hot start propelled the green and black to a 25-13 triumph in set two.
EV scored 12 of the first 16 points in the set and cruised to a 12-point win.
"I told them we just have to play volleyball," Thiele-Blecher said. "We're so tense with one little error. It's passing, setting and hitting. One of my little things (I say) is it's a cowhide with air, play volleyball. They found it in them to settle down and play."
The rally was on for EPPJ. Tied at 15 in the third set, the Lady Wolfpack ended the set on a 10-2 run and captured their first set win, 25-17, on a Kaylee Martinsen kill.
"We all talked to each other and knew this wasn't our last game," said EPPJ senior Allyson Wemhoff. "We've battled back in five sets before and we knew we had to bring the energy in the last three sets. All the girls delivered and it was really fun. We pulled together and played like the team we are. We love each other, so it was easy."
The red and white once again surged past the Lady Falcons with a 13-4 run to end the fourth set and win, 25-16. Senior Grace Rittscher served the final seven points of the set and Kayce Kallhoff forced a decisive fifth set with a kill.
"Coach (Thiele-Blecher) really stresses serves," Rittscher noted. "Every day at practice, we practice a lot on serves. I knew I had to get it over and in, over and in and over and in. Coach told us in the huddle every time to focus on over and in. It just works I guess."
The packed crowd at Norfolk Catholic was treated to a volleyball masterpiece in the final set.
Elkhorn Valley opened the set with a 4-1 run thanks to two blocks by Sierra Rystrom and a kill and block by Olivia Nall, but EPPJ answered with an 8-1 run.
Trailing 11-7, the Lady Falcons scored five of the next six points to tie the match at 12 thanks to three kills and an ace by Ollendick during the run.
The Lady Wolfpack ended the set on a 3-0 run and completed the comeback on a Martinsen kill to win the match, and go a perfect 6-0 against Antelope County squads in 2018.
"I've never felt more excited in my life," Martinsen said. "It feels great to beat EV for the third time, even though I love playing against those girls. Once the ball hit the floor, I couldn't believe it. We are one win away from state and I can't wait."
Ollendick led the Lady Falcons with 16 kills, two aces, two blocks and 35 digs. Rystrom recorded eight kills, three aces, two blocks, two assists and 22 digs, Amber Miller accounted for three kills, seven aces, 35 digs and 28 assists, Nall tallied nine kills, six blocks, six assists and 34 digs, Haley Fleetwood added two aces, two blocks and 19 digs and Kaylee Bacon had three blocks.
It was a total team effort for EPPJ in the win. Three different players recorded at least 12 kills led by Martinsen with 17 kills, six blocks, 25 digs and an ace. Haley Zegers accumulated 14 kills, 13 digs and five blocks, Kallhoff pitched in 12 kills, an ace and three blocks, Wemhoff recorded 23 digs and 38 assists, Rittscher added 16 digs and two aces and Heilhecker collected more than 28 digs.
"It's huge for us this year that we don't ever rely on just one person," Thiele-Blecher said. "The mental toughness of every girl knowing that the set can come to me or the expectation to get the serve over and in. It's huge for our team. It was definitely a team effort tonight and they did that."
Elkhorn Valley ends its season with an 18-11 record. Miller, Rystrom and Ollendick are the lone seniors on the Lady Falcons squad, but are three hard players to replace.
"As far as the season goes, I know this isn't how and when we wanted it to end," Vaughn said. "Especially the seniors, they wanted another district championship. They really left their mark. They have helped us build our program up again and are competitors and push the team to get better every day. They set the bar pretty high, and have been fun to watch grow as volleyball players and off the court as well."
Elgin Public/Pope John (21-11) awaits its district finals opponent. The Class D-2 district finals are schedule for Saturday and the winner advances to the state tournament next week.
"We'll take one game at a time and we're two-thirds of the way there (from qualifying for state)," Thiele-Blecher concluded. "Hopefully we get a little film on whoever we're playing and we just have to get out there and play our kind of ball. We can't worry about so much on who's on the other side of the net. We have to play Wolfpack ball on our side of the net."
EPPJ 21 13 25 25 15
EV 25 25 17 16 12
Elgin Public/Pope John - Haley Zegers 14k, 5b, 13d; Kaylee Martinsen 17k, 1a, 6b, 25d, 1sa; Allyson Wemhoff 1k, 1a, 23d, 38sa; Lexi Bode 4k, 2b; Grace Rittscher 2a, 16d, 2sa; Kayce Kallhoff 12k, 1a, 3b, 14d; Harlie Bode 4k, 7d, 1sa; Kirsten Krebs 7d, 4sa; Anna Heilhecker 28d.
Elkhorn Valley - Olivia Nall 9k, 6b, 34d, 6sa; Bria Gale 13d; Carney Black 1k, 1b, 9d; Haley Fleetwood 2a, 2b, 19d; Amber Miller 3k, 7a, 35d, 28sa; Hannah Ollendick 16k, 2a, 2b, 35d; Kaylee Bacon 2k, 1a, 3b, 6d; Sierra Rystrom 8k, 3a, 2b, 22d, 2sa.
Elkhorn Valley looked like the top seed on Monday as the Falcons dominated Plainview in the Class D1-7 subdistrict at Norfolk Catholic.
Sierra Rystrom had a big night for the Falcons with 10 kills and 11 digs while Hannah Ollendick put down another seven kills and had 12 digs in the win. Amber Miller was as versatile as even with six kills, four ace serves, a dozen digs and 20 set assists.
With the win, Elkhorn Valley earned a rematch against Elgin Public/Pope John on Tuesday night. The two met over the weekend in the Niobrara Valley Conference consolation game.
Plainview 9 17 8
Elkhorn Valley 25 25 25
Elkhorn Valley: Olivia Nall 3k, 10d, 7sa; Bria Gale 8d; Carney Black 4k, 3d, 1sa; Haley Fleetwood 1k, 2a, 10d; Amber Miller 6k, 4a, 1b, 12d, 20sa; Hannah Ollendick 7k, 2a, 12d, 1sa; Kaylee Bacon 4k, 6a, 6d; Sierra Rystrom 10k, 1a, 1b, 11d.
Elgin Public/Pope John swept Clearwater/Orchard on Monday at the D1-7 subdistrict at Norfolk Catholic and earned another meeting with Elkhorn Valley on Tuesday.
EPPJ defeated Clearwater/Orchard 25-22, 25-21, 25-12. The Wolfpack move onto the subdistrict final against the Falcons in a rematch of the Niobrara Valley Conference consolation match. The Wolfpack were down 0-2 but rallied to defeated Elkhorn Valley in five sets.
Against the Cyclones, the Wolfpack earned the sweep, but OC battled hard in the first two sets and made EPPJ work for the wins. Haley Zegers led the Wolfpack with 11 kills and 11 digs while Kayce Kallhoff added another nine kills and eight digs and Kristen Krebs had seven kills and nine digs.
The subdistrict final is slated for a 7 p.m. start Tuesday at Norfolk Catholic.
EPPJ 25 25 25
OC 22 21 12
EPPJ: Haley Zegers 11k, 2a, 1b, 11d, 1sa; Kaylee Martinsen 7k, 1a, 2b, 5d; Allyson Wemhoff 2k, 2a, 5d, 27sa; Grace Rittscher 2a, 7d; Kayce Kallhoff 9k, 8d, 1sa; Harlie Bode 1k, 2a, 1d; Kirsten Krebs 7k, 9d, 2sa; Anna Heilhecker 1a, 25d.
OC: Avery Cheatum 4k, 4d; Katie Stearns 6k, 2a, 1b, 2d; Julian Tuttle 1a, 1d, 24sa; JoCee Johnston 10k, 1a, 5b, 2d; Taelyn Switzer 4k, 2a, 2d; Taylor Sanne 2k, 3a, 1b, 2sa.
Clearwater/Orchard ended it season after a tough bout with Elgin Public Pope John at the D1-7 subdistrict at Norfolk Catholic. The Cyclones matched EPPJ nearly point for point for the first two matches but couldn't keep up the pace against the Wolfpack, who finished third in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament over the weekend.
EPPJ defeated Clearwater/Orchard 25-22, 25-21, 25-12. The Wolfpack move onto the subdistrict final on Tuesday against Elkhorn Valley.
JoCee Johnston had another strong night at the net, knocking down 10 kills and block five attempts from the Wolfpack. Julian Tuttle added to her four-figure collection of set assists with another 24. Tuttle also connected with Katie Stearns for six kills, along with Avery Cheatum and Taelyn Switzer for four kills each.
The Cyclones end the season with a 17-12 record. OC seniors are Julian Tuttle, Taylor Sanne, JoCee Johnston and Katie Stearns.
EPPJ 25 25 25
OC 22 21 12
EPPJ: Haley Zegers 11k, 2a, 1b, 11d, 1sa; Kaylee Martinsen 7k, 1a, 2b, 5d; Allyson Wemhoff 2k, 2a, 5d, 27sa; Grace Rittscher 2a, 7d; Kayce Kallhoff 9k, 8d, 1sa; Harlie Bode 1k, 2a, 1d; Kirsten Krebs 7k, 9d, 2sa; Anna Heilhecker 1a, 25d.
OC: Avery Cheatum 4k, 4d; Katie Stearns 6k, 2a, 1b, 2d; Julian Tuttle 1a, 1d, 24sa; JoCee Johnston 10k, 1a, 5b, 2d; Taelyn Switzer 4k, 2a, 2d; Taylor Sanne 2k, 3a, 1b, 2sa.
Neligh-Oakdale dove for every last ball Monday night as the Warriors fought to extend their season one more match into subdistricts, leaving everything on the court through the final play. But Plainview was too much to over come as Neligh-Oakdale fell in a five-set heartbreaker to end the season.
In the D1-7 subdistrict at Norfolk Catholic, Plainview defeated Neligh-Oakdale 25-18, 22-25, 20-25, 25-16, 15-11 in a nearly two-hour match.
The Warriors struggled early and spotted Plainview an 8-0 lead to start the match. Neligh-Oakdale played catch-up the rest of the first set and put together a strong run that carried over to the second and third sets. The Warriors' scrappy play and quick feet led to a 2-1 advantage as Neligh-Oakdale looked to put the Pirates away in the fourth set.
But errors plagued the Warriors in the fourth as Plainview evened the match to force a decisive fifth set. The Warriors looked to be a step ahead of Plainview as they stayed a point or two up on the Pirates, but Plainview didn't let Neligh-Oakdale build a cushion and pulled ahead at 11-10 and never relinquished the lead.
Neligh-Oakdale ended the season with a 16-12 record behind senior leaders and co-captains Kristen Snodgrass and Haley Kerkman.
The Elgin Public/Pope John and Elkhorn Valley volleyball teams put on a show Friday night in front of a jammed pack crowd at Niobrara for the final day of the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament.
The Lady Wolfpack came back from a two-set deficit to defeat EV, 3-2, and finish third in the conference tournament.
"We played ball like we knew how to all of a sudden in those last three sets," commented EPPJ coach Tina Thiele-Blecher. "We had to change the lineup because we had a girl gone for national FFA and I guess we shouldn't have changed the lineup. It threw it us off and I told the girls they were playing like they did at the beginning of the season. We went back to our normal lineup, subbed Lexi (Bode) in, and she did a great job, and we just played ball."
The first set was a back-and-forth battle between the two county foes, with four ties and two different lead changes in the first 27 points.
After an attack error by the Lady Falcons cut their lead to 15-14, EV went on an 8-3 run and ended the set on a Kaylee Bacon kill.
Back-to-back kills by Hannah Ollendick gave EV a 17-13 lead in the second set and Sierra Rystrom and Bacon gave the green and black a two-set lead with a kill each to end the set.
"We played a little timid even though we came out strong in the first couple of sets," said EV coach Emily Vaughn. "We got some breaks early and I'd like to see us hit the ball more than we did and keep attacking at the net. We just got complacent and maybe let our foot off the gas pedal a little too soon."
Tied at three in the third set, EPPJ used a 9-2 run to claim a 12-5 advantage. A block by Rystrom cut the lead to 24-22, but Haley Zegers ended the set with a kill.
"Coach told us she knew we were better than that and we knew we were better than how we played in the first two sets," stated EPPJ senior Anna Heilhecker. "We kept working and we started clicking together. We picked up our defense and we started picking up more balls."
The fourth set was all Lady Wolfpack thanks to a 7-1 run to start the set. Kaylee Martinsen recorded four kills in the first seven points for EPPJ.
Martinsen scored two aces to end the set, 25-13, and a force a decisive fifth set.
"We had to have a lot of trust out there to not let balls drop," Heilhecker added. "We lacked communication in the first two sets, so we picked it up and it worked."
The momentum swayed back-and-forth in the fifth set. A Martinsen kill and EV error, put the Lady Wolfpack up 11-7. The Lady Falcons responded with a 4-0 run and tied the match at 11 with a Bacon kill.
Knotted at 12, EPPJ scored the final three points on a Lady Falcon error, a Martinsen ace and a Kayce Kallhoff kill, to complete the comeback and win the set, 15-12, and the match.
"After that second set we were all pretty scared," Heilhecker recalled. "We didn't want to do what we did last year at district finals and lose to them again. We battled, kept hustling, never let a ball drop and we kept pushing."
Amber Miller led the Lady Falcons with a triple-double after accumulating 10 kills, two aces, 30 digs and 31 assists. Ollendick tallied a double-double with 13 kills, two aces and 34 digs, Rystrom collected nine kills, three blocks and 20 digs, Olivia Nall had eight kills and 24 digs, Haley Fleetwood pitched in 27 digs and Bria Gale added 13 digs.
"We were able to focus on our serves and we served a very tough match," Vaughn said. "We didn't passed too bad, but we talked about the mentality and being able to close out a match. We need to build off each other and rally around our teammates who make good plays. It didn't go our way tonight and Elgin played a great game and didn't let anything touch the ground. That made it tough for us to have any confidence."
Martinsen led EPPJ with a match-highs in kills (17), aces (four) and blocks (seven). Kallhoff contributed 16 kills, Zegers recorded 10 kills, four blocks and 12 digs, Kirsten Krebs accounted for seven kills and 10 digs, Allyson Wemhoff tallied 30 digs and 44 assists, Grace Rittscher accumulated 26 digs and six assists and Heilhecker added 27 digs.
"There was no one that stood out tonight that we were going to for sure go to," Thiele-Blecher said. "I kept telling Ally (Wemhoff) to set to anybody right now because everyone was getting kills. The biggest thing was everyone was digging and passing. We weren't letting any balls hit the floor. I preach all the time, defense wins championships, and we didn't let the ball hit the floor. Everyone was all over the place."
Elkhorn Valley (17-10) and Elgin Public/Pope John (19-11) both participate in Class D1-7 sub-district at Norfolk Catholic Monday.
EV awaits the winner of Neligh-Oakdale and Plainview at 7:30 p.m., while EPPJ faces Clearwater/Orchard at 6:15 p.m.
"It's always great to win no matter what and there's a chance we see them next week," concluded Thiele-Blecher. "Hopefully this gains us a lot of momentum heading into next week and we get ready for postseason. Hopefully we have a lot of confidence."
The Cyclones will advance to the second round of D-2 playoffs with their 54-20 win over Brady on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Oct. 31, the Clearwater/Orchard football team will now travel to Lawrence to take on Lawrence-Nelson in a 4 p.m. game.
Clearwater and Orchard will both dismiss classes at 11:45 a.m. on Oct. 31 and no lunch will be served at either school.
Numerous miscues cost the Neligh-Oakdale football team, as the Warriors saw their season come to an end with a 60-26 loss to North Central Thursday in the first round of the Class D-1 playoffs.
"The kids fought pretty hard," said N-O mentor Ron Beacom. "We've been a young group all year and we were banged up most of the year, but day in and day out, they came and worked well and worked hard. We really grew a lot and that's what gave us a chance."
After two fumbled snaps turned into two Knight touchdowns, N-O got in the scoring column, following a muffed punt, as Hunter Charf scored and Jayden Arehart recorded the two-point conversion.
After two North Central scores, Andrew Herley cut the deficit to 14 with a 25-yard TD run.
An Arehart touchdown run from three-yards out made it a one-score game, but the Knights scored 42 of the final 48 points in the game.
"They have a nice football team," Beacom said. "If we could have contained the big play, we would have been in the game. But we continued to give up big plays."
North Central (6-3) travels to Nebraska Christian Wednesday for its second round matchup.
Herley led the offense with 108 yards rushing, 44 yards receiving and one touchdown. Arehart collected 38 yards of total offense and a score, Charf threw for 120 yards and a TD, while Austin Rice caught four passes for 84 yards and a touchdown.
All three Warrior seniors who played Thursday evening, found the end zone in their final game. Arehart and Herley each recorded a rushing touchdown and Rice caught a 16-yard TD pass from Charf. Tucker Knust also saw his Neligh-Oakdale football career come to an end as the Warriors bowed out of the playoffs and ended their season at 4-5.
"I'm really proud of Austin, Andrew, Jayden and Tucker for everything they did for us this year," Beacom concluded. "They were good leaders, both by example and vocal. They will be missed, obviously, but I look forward to all the kids we got coming back."
Neligh-Oakdale (4-5) 8 18 0 0 - 26
North Central (6-3) 20 22 10 8 - 60
Neligh-Oakdale - Passing: Hunter Charf 9-16-0 120 yards. Brock Kester 1-5-0 35 yards.
Rushing: Andrew Herley 11-108. Hunter Charf 12-13. Jayden Arehart 4-15. Garret Belitz 1-1. Brock Kester 4-(-8).
Receiving: Austin Rice 4-84. Andrew Herley 2-44. Jayden Arehart 3-23.
North Central - Passing: Jake Heerten 15-29-1 289 yards.
Rushing: Charlie Gale 15-82. Sage Miller 9-57. Jake Heerten 6-58. Levi Lewis 5-9. Dolan Pospichat 1-7. Zak Palmer 5-11. Zane Vigoren 1-3.
The Clearwater/Orchard football team flexed its muscles and cruised to a 54-20 triumph over Brady Thursday in the first round of the Class D-2 playoffs at Orchard.
"I thought we played a very complete game," said OC mentor Jeff Shabram. "The varsity played really hard. Offense, defense and we even made some plays on special teams. We played physical, fast and aggressive. We did a nice job blocking up front and Eli Macke did a nice job running the ball. It was a pretty complete game for us."
The Eagles opened the game by recovering an onside kick and drove inside the OC 20, but the Cyclones did not break and forced a turnover on the downs.
On the ensuing play, Macke broke free for a 37-yard run and four plays later found the end zone on a seven-yard score.
"They kicked the onside right away and we had to come back and do something," Macke recalled. "I broke off a big run and we went from there."
OC took advantage of a few miscues to extend its lead. Following a Macke interception, the Cyclones were facing a fourth-and-long, but a personal foul roughing the punter penalty gave OC a fresh set of downs. The green and black ended the drive with a Chris Kester three-yard TD run.
On the first play of the Cyclones' next drive, Macke broke free for a 30-yard TD scamper to give the Cyclones a 24-0 lead at the end of the first.
In the first 12 minutes of play, Macke accumulated more than 100 yards rushing, two touchdowns and an interception.
"It was time to show up, time to play and time to show everyone who we are," Macke said. "We have to keep working hard and keep moving."
Following a fumble recovery by Houston Marino, Kester recorded a 12-yard TD score.
The defense continued to dominate, as Blake Hoke picked off a pass for the third Eagle turnover of the game. OC capitalized on the miscue as Kester scored from three yards out to give the Cyclones a 36-0 lead at half.
Brady opened the second half with a drive deep into Cyclone territory, but Ryan Wilhelm picked off T.J. Roe's pass to end the threat.
"The defense played very physical up front," Shabram noted. "When we were in positions where our backs were up against the goal line, we bowed our necks and really played physical defense, especially in those crucial situations."
Kester tallied his fourth rushing touchdown on a four-yard run.
The Eagles finally broke through towards the end of the third when Roe scored Brady's first touchdown on a 35-yard run.
OC responded with a Macke 15-yard scoring run to push its lead back up to 42.
Following a touchdown reception by Titus Earll, Austin Pokorny found the end zone on a one-yard plunge.
The Eagles scored the final touchdown of the contest on a 48-yard run by Hunter Lovitt.
OC advances to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
"We knew it was going to be a good game," Macke said. "We worked all week in practice and we knew we needed to play a four-quarter game, which is what we worked for all year. Now we're going out and doing it."
The green and black were led by their potent running attack, which gained 376 yards rushing and eight touchdowns. Macke gained 233 yards on the ground, caught a pass for 39 yards and scored three times. Kester added 71 yards rushing, 52 yards passing and four rushing TDs and Pokorny ran the ball for 41 yards and a touchdown.
"We've prided ourselves all year on having multiple weapons," Shabram said. "Eli (Macke) is one weapon, Chris (Kester) is another one, we got Blake (Hoke), we got Clay (Thiele) and Jacob Long. We got a lot of weapons out here and you never know which guy is going to have the hot hand that night."
The defense was also stellar for the Cyclones in their eighth-straight victory. OC gave up 141 yards rushing and forced five Eagle turnovers, which turned into 26 points for the host squad, and stopped Brady in the red zone on three different occasions.
"The defense played really great," Macke said. "The line got a really good push, got a few sacks and played a really good game."
Brady ends its season at 4-5.
Clearwater/Orchard (8-1) advances to the second round of the playoffs and hits the road as the Cyclones make a long bus ride to Lawrence-Nelson Wednesday.
"Lawrence-Nelson is another physical team," Shabram concluded. "It's going to be a pretty physical matchup and we need to be on our game. We need to be disciplined and smart in all three phases of the game. We definitely have to have our A game Wednesday."
Brady (4-5) 0 0 6 14 - 20
OC (8-1) 24 12 12 6 - 54
Brady - Passing: T.J. Roe 9-19-2 178 yards. Titus Earll 0-1-1 0 yards
Rushing: T.J. Roe 17-66. Hunter Lovitt 4-62. Noah Jurjens 3-19. Shane Most 1-1. Titus Earll 14-(-7).
Receiving: Titus Earll 5-136. Noah Kurjens 2-26. Cameron Sylvan 2-16.
Clearwater/Orchard - Passing: Chris Kester 3-13-0 52 yards.
Rushing: Eli Macke 18-233. Chris Kester 14-71. Austin Pokorny 8-41. Houston Marino 8-24. Colton Thiele 1-4. Mason Hoke 1-1. Tyler Bellar 1-1. Zach King 1-1.
Receiving: Eli Macke 1-39. Blake Hoke 2-13.
All of the Antelope County volleyball teams will play in the D1-7 subdistrict volleyball tournament at Norfolk Catholic next week.
On Monday, Oct. 29, the 16-11 Neligh-Oakdale Warriors are the #4 seed in the tournament and will take on #5 Plainview (13-13) in the first game at 5 p.m.
The winner of the N-O vs Plainview match will advance to play top-seeded Elkhorn Valley at 7:30 p.m on Monday.
In an all-Antelope County matchup, #2 Elgin Public/Pope John will play #3 Clearwater-Orchard at 6:15 p.m. on Monday. The winner of the EPPJ vs OC game will advance to play the match 3 winner in the subdistrict championship on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 7 p.m.
A poor performance cost the Elkhorn Valley volleyball team, as the Lady Falcons fell to Chambers/Wheeler Central in three sets, 25-18, 25-19 and 25-19, in the semifinals of the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament Tuesday at West Holt.
“I thought we were in every single set clear till the end, but we didn’t have the energy we needed to (win the set),” stated EV mentor Emily Vaughn. “It’s disappointing potentially going into the conference finals. We put ourselves in this place and wanted to do well, but the energy wasn’t there that we needed to win.”
After digging themselves in an eight-point hole in the first set, the Lady Falcons used a 10-5 run to cut the deficit to three thanks to a Hannah Ollendick kill, block and ace.
CWC responded with a 10-6 run to win the set.
The second set started as a back-and-forth battle, with nine ties and four different lead changes.
After CWC used an 8-1 run to take control of the set, EV answered with a 7-2 run to cut the deficit to one.
Two blocks and a kill by Taylor Jean Peter gave the Lady Renegades an all important 2-0 set lead heading into the final set.
The third set started the same as the second, with both team fighting tooth and nail for momentum, but the Lady Renegades used a 6-1 run to take control and claim a 20-15 lead.
EV refused to give up and responded with a 4-1 run to cut the deficit to two, but CWC scored the final four points to take the set, and the match.
“That was a good team we played and we had opportunities, but we didn’t pull it together mentally,” Vaughn said.
Amber Miller led the Lady Falcons with a double-double after recording 14 digs and 12 assists, to go along with six kills. Ollendick collected six kills, a block, an ace and eight digs, Sierra Rystrom tallied five kills, two aces and seven digs, Olivia Nall had two kills, three aces and 10 digs and Haley Fleetwood added two aces and 17 digs.
CWC (22-6) faces Ewing in the NVC title match Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Niobrara.
Elkhorn Valley (17-9) looks to bounce back Friday against county rival Elgin Public/Pope John in the third-place match of the NVC tournament at 6:15 p.m. at Niobrara.
“We need to rebound, learn from this game and know that every single game from here on out is going to be against tough competition,” Vaughn concluded. “We have to come back with some energy and fire, otherwise it’s going to be a short season.”
Despite a valiant effort, the Elgin Public/Pope John volleyball team fell to Ewing in three sets, 25-21, 25-14 and 25-17, in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament semifinals Tuesday at West Holt.
"I was really happy with the way the girls came out," said EPPJ coach Tina Thiele-Blecher. "Ewing is a great team and they have guns coming at all times, from everywhere. Our defense didn't quite adjust as much as I'd hope."
Both squads fought tooth and nail in the opening set, as there was seven ties in the first set. The Lady Wolfpack went on a 4-0 run to tie the match at 21, but the Lady Tigers ended the set with a 4-0 run after Ashley Koenig's kill.
"We came out in that first set on fire and ready to go," Thiele-Blecher recalled. "We played them so tight in the first set, that we wanted it too bad in the second set and could not get anything going our way."
Ewing opened the second set with a 7-1 run and cruised to a nine-point set win.
"At this point and time of the season, everybody is going to bring their A game," said Ewing coach Suz Funk. "You have to be prepared for every point. We knew they were going to get their shots, we just needed to stay focused and handle it the best we could."
Following a Kayce Kallhoff kill that tied the third set at six, the orange and black went on a 13-5 run to claim a 19-11 advantage.
Koenig scored the final three kills for Ewing to win the set, and the match.
Haley Zegers led the Lady Wolfpack with eight kills and six digs. Kaylee Martinsen recorded three kills, an ace, four digs and a block, Allyson Wemhoff tallied three kills, five digs and 10 assists, Kallhoff accounted for four kills and six digs, Harlie Bode added three blocks and Anna Heilhecker pitched in 16 digs.
The Lady Tigers used a balanced attack to seal a spot in the NVC title match. Four different players recorded double-digits points led by Brenna Wagner's 10 kills, four blocks and three aces. Tiana Thramer had nine kills, three blocks and an ace, Sidney Stallbaum accumulated seven kills, two aces and two blocks and Koenig contributed eight kills, a block and an ace.
"We did a better job in the serve and pass game," Funk said. "When you serve aggressively and pass well, you have a lot more options. When we pass the ball, we have a lot of options to use. We kept their blockers going from pin-to-pin and kept them out of their system. It worked for us tonight. Kudos to the girls, they did a great job passing. They were focused and knew what they needed to do."
Ewing (26-1) plays Chambers/Wheeler Central in the NVC championship match Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Niobrara.
"We need to stay focused," Funk added. "We'll watch game film, fine tune on that and watch them (CWC) play. They are a great ball club, so we need to go to school and try to learn on them."
Elgin Public/Pope John (18-11) faces county rival Elkhorn Valley Friday in the NVC third-place match at 6:15 p.m. at Niobrara.
"Tonight is still going to help us for next week (for sub-districts) and next week is a little more important than this week," Thiele-Blecher concluded. "The NVC is tough and I told them to be proud of being here tonight. There's nine other teams practicing tonight instead of playing here. I'm proud for them even being here tonight."
Elkhorn Valley dominated Neligh-Oakdale on Monday night in the quarterfinals of the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament.
Elkhorn Valley won 25-15, 25-22, 25-17 and advances to Tuesday’s semifinal against Chambers/Wheeler Central at 7:30 p.m. in Atkinson. Ewing will take on Elgin Public/Pope John in the 6:15 p.m. match.
The Falcons jumped out against the Warriors early and used a hefty front-row attack to keep the Warriors battling for position. Hannah Ollendick put down a match-high 15 kills for the Falcons while Amber Miller had eight kills and Olivia Nall and Sierra Rystrom each added seven more. Miller also had 24 set assists and 14 digs as she continued to be the Falcons’ go-to player in all fascists of the game.
The second set was much more evenly matched as the Warriors stayed close to Elkhorn Valley, despite spending much of the set running down passes. At 21-20, the Falcons pulled away against the fatigued Warriors and used the momentum to complete the three-set sweep.
Haley Kerkman had seven kills to lead the Warriors while Amanda Dietz added six. Definsively, Kerkman had 14 digs, and Paige Furstenau picked up 10.
With the win, Elkhorn Valley is guaranteed to play both Tuesday and Friday, which will be the consolation and championship matches.
Neligh-Oakdale is off until subdistricts begin Monday, Oct. 29, at Norfolk Catholic. Also in the D1-7 district will be Elkhorn Valley, EPPJ, Clearwater-Orchard and Plainview.
Neligh-Oakdale 15 22 17
Elkhorn Valley 25 25 25
Neligh-Oakdale: Paige Furstenau 10d, 2sa; Trinity Kurpgeweit 3k, 1a, 4d; Brooke Frey 1k, 2d; Amanda Dietz 6k, 1b, 1sa; Shelby Pitzer 1k, 6d; Haley Kerkman 7k, 1a, 14d, 9sa; Claire Whitesel 6d, 4s; Josey Booth 2d, 1sa; Kristen Snodgrass 1k, 8d, 2sa.
Elkhorn Valley: Olivia Nall 7k, 2a, 2sa; 8d; Bria Gale 2d; Carney Black 1k, 3sa; Haley Fleetwood 1a, 14d; Amber Miller 8k, 7a, 14d, 24sa; Hannah Ollendick 15k, 12d, 3sa; Kaylee Bacon 2k, 1b, 3d; Sierra Rystrom 7k, 8d, 1sa.
The Elgin Public/Pope John volleyball team earned two three-set sweeps over Niobrara/Verdigre and Boyd County Monday in the opening day of the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament.
A balanced attack led the Lady Wolfpack to a sweep of N/V, 25-18, 25-4 and 25-16.
Five different players recorded at least four kills in the match led by Kayce Kallhoff and Haley Zegers’ eight kills and seven digs apiece. Kaylee Martinsen collected six kills, six aces, two blocks and seven digs, Harlie Bode contributed five kills, Kirsten Krebs tallied four kills, six assists and three blocks, Grace Rittscher added three aces, Anna Heilhecker had two aces and 13 digs and Allyson Wemhoff recorded a double-double with 16 digs and 18 assists.
EPPJ ended the night with a three-set win over Boyd County, 25-25, 25-8 and 25-23, to seal a spot in the NVC semifinals.
Martinsen led the way with 10 kills and two blocks. Zegers pitched in six kills, five blocks and 10 digs, Krebs and Kallhoff each tallied four kills, while Kallhoff added 14 digs, Bode contributed five kills, two blocks, Wemhoff tallied 10 digs and 23 assists, while Heilhecker accounted for 20 digs.
Elgin Public/Pope John (18-10) faces Ewing in the NVC semis today at 6:15 p.m. at West Holt.
The Niobrara Valley Conference tournament kicked off with a bang Monday night as Clearwater/Orchard, O'Neill St. Mary's and Ewing took the floor in the opening night of the conference tournament.
OC opened with a three-set triumph over O'Neill St. Mary's, 25-21, 25-20 and 25-23.
"It was a good start to the conference tournament," stated OC coach Sierra Summers. "I am proud of how the girls came out with of fire and a will to win."
The Lady Cyclones jumped out to a quick 9-1 lead thanks to three Katie Stearns' aces, along with three kills and two blocks by JoCee Johnston.
At 21-17, Julian Tuttle recorded her 1,000th career assist on a Stearns' kill.
"It feels really good," Tuttle said. "I've worked really hard for it and I know it's not a huge achievement for a good setter, but getting it within two years I'd say is pretty cool."
After dropping the first point in the second set, OC rattled off 10 unanswered points. Taelyn Switzer recorded four aces during the run.
Trailing by 14, the Lady Cardinals went on a 17-3 run to cut the deficit to two.
OC scored five of the final seven points and ended set with a Johnston kill.
Despite winning the last set for the sweep, the Lady Cyclones were plagued with errors. The green and black had to overcome 17 errors to win the last set and the match.
Tuttle collected 26 assists and an ace in the match. Johnston recorded a match-high 14 kills and three blocks, Stearns tallied six kills, three aces and two blocks and Switzer accounted for four aces.
"We did a really good job of talking in the first game," Tuttle noted. "We all stayed low and we knew that St. Mary's knew our weaknesses because we had played them so many times. We covered well and hit well. That really helped."
Sybil Scofield led the Lady Cardinals with eight kills, two blocks and two aces. Jadyn Eby had three kills and four aces, Abby Hedstrom added two kills, Katie Pongratz pitched in a block and an ace and Abby Everitt pitched in a kill and an ace.
OC gave the top-seeded Ewing everything they could handle, but fell in three-sets to end the "We were struggling with our passing," spoke Ewing coach Suz Funk. "We always tell them we can't use three attacks if we're struggling with out passing. OC is a good team and they took us out of system a lot of times. They were blocking well. We needed to hit the shots and the angles we practiced. They're a great team."
The Lady Cyclones punched the host Lady Tigers in the mouth to start the first set with quick 4-1 lead thanks to two kills and a block by Johnston.
"We did a really good job of not being intimidated," Tuttle said. "We knew Ewing is a really good team and they've been (good) the last couple of years. We knew it was going to be a really hard game and I'm really proud for us sticking through it so well."
Trailing by one, the Lady Tigers went on a 9-2 run in the first. Four different players recorded a kill during the run.
An 11-6 run by OC cut Ewing's lead to one, but the Lady Tigers ended the set with two kills by Ashley Koenig.
After Switzer gave the Lady Cyclones a 3-2 lead with back-to-back aces in the second set, Ewing ended the set on a 23-9 run to win the set.
"We talked about picking up the tempo of the game and running a quicker offense, so we could get them out of system and make their blockers run side-to-side," Funk said. "That helped us get some open shots."
After playing five hard-fought sets Monday night, OC ran out of steam and committed 13 errors in a 25-14 set loss to end the match.
"We came out and played really tough," Summers said. "The girls really worked hard to stay with them and continued to do what they could to earn every point. I am so proud of the effort that was put out on the floor and the way that they fought."
Johnston led the Lady Cyclones with nine kills and two blocks. Switzer added three aces and two kills, Stearns collected three kills and an ace and Tuttle contributed 18 assists.
The Lady Tigers were led by Brenna Wagner's eight kills, four aces and four blocks. Sidney Stallbaum tallied 10 kills, an ace and a block, Koenig recorded seven kills and an ace, Summer Schroeder accounted for three blocks and two aces and Tiana Thramer had four blocks and three kills.
Ewing (28-1) advances to the NVC semifinals and faces Elgin Public/Pope John Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. at West Holt.
"We need to stay focused, practice and take one game at a time," Funk commented. "The NVC is a tough conference and everyone is going to bring their A game. Everybody wants to go on, so we have to prepare for every game."
Clearwater/Orchard (18-12) and O'Neill St. Mary's (4-23) bow out of the NVC tournament and participate in the sub-district tourneys next week.
"In the postseason we should be OK," Tuttle concluded. "Our sub-district is doable if we play like we played tonight. If we play like we played tonight, we should be able to get out of it. We just have to hope for the best."