The showdown between No. 1 Omaha Marian and No. 2 Millard North in the Class A state title match was looming since the Metro Conference final win by the Mustangs.
The Crusaders, who lost their chance at a fourth straight title in the semifinals in 2016, had been the team to beat all season long while the Mustangs were the state’s hottest team and defending champion. Saturday night at Devaney Sports Complex was loud, as it should be, and the teams hit the floor for a dynamic match between a known dynasty and a young team hungry for recognition after last year’s success.
In the end, the dynasty won out and Marian returned to the apex of the Nebraska volleyball world with the Crusaders’ fourth title in five seasons.
So, now, three days after the championship match, it’s time to think about what comes next: A possible rematch in next year’s state tournament final.
“We have a lot of players back, I lose two defenders, so going forward I return all my hitters and my setter, that’s a big deal,” Millard North coach Lindsay Peterson said following Saturday’s loss.
The Mustangs only lose three seniors, including Class A All-Tournament team libero Madison Evans, to graduation so they’re already looking forward to tryouts next year.
Sophomores Eve Fountain and McKenna Ruch finished first and second in kills respectively on the Millard North roster and will be a hard duo to contain in 2018.
“(Millard North) is young, they’re not going away,” Marian coach Amy McLeay said. “They’re very composed and great competitors. They love the game. You can just see it.”
Eight seniors played their last match for Marian on Saturday, so it will be a new-look squad for McLeay next season. The Crusaders lose three Division I talents in Lily Heim (SMU), Sarah Wing (Iowa) and Margaret Mullen (Louisville) but will return Emily Bressman, a Creighton commit, as well as a collection of talented players waiting for their chance.
“If you look at on the court, it’s not all seniors, the majority is juniors,” Heim said. “They’ve pushed us on the starting side and Bressman, the big dog, knows what this feels like, all the juniors do, so they’re not going to stop. It’s definitely possible to have as good of a season as we just had.”
The 2018 state tournament begins 359 days from Tuesday, so it might be too early to take a stab at the participants in next year’s title game.
But, if you have to, a rematch wouldn’t be the worst pick.