BELLEVUE -- Omaha Skutt volleyball coach Renee Saunders knew during the summer that she had a special group of players.
The rest of the state found out about them Friday at Bellevue West during pool play at the 16-team Bellevue Invitational.
The Class B No. 8 SkyHawks went 3-0 in pool play, the signature victory being a 25-22, 25-19 surprise of Class A No. 2 Omaha Marian to finish the night. Earlier Skutt downed Class B No. 9 Omaha Gross 25-13, 25-11 and Bellevue East 25-13, 25-14.
“We still have a ways to go in this tournament and tomorrow is a new day, but this was definitely a coming-out party for them tonight,” Saunders said. “Our seniors have played together since sixth grade and our young players push them every day in practice.”
Senior outside hitter Taylor Holz led a balanced Skutt attack against Marian with nine kills to go with 10 digs. Junior Kierra Harder and sophomore Alyssa Woodman added five kills apiece. Woodman also recorded four ace blocks.
Marian (2-1) still advances to the eight-team championship bracket by taking second in the pool, which makes coach Rochelle Rohlfs eager to see how her team plays Saturday.
“Playing matches like this is great for us,” said Rohlfs, who returned just two starters from last year’s state runner-up team. “We’ll only get better. I’d rather lose now than later.”
No. 6 Lincoln Southeast also advanced to the championship bracket by going 2-1. The Knights beat Bellevue West (25-18, 25-16) and Omaha Burke (25-13, 25-14), but fell to Iowa 2A No. 2 Western Christian 25-19, 19-25, 25-17.
Outside hitters Meagen Roth and Tyra Douglas had 23 and 19 kills, respectively, in the three matches combined for the Knights. Kylee Wurster put up 66 assists, and Carly Sheppard registered 35 digs to lead the Southeast defense.
“I’m very pleased,” Southeast coach Annie Rice-Healey said. “The kids are working hard in practice and it translated into how we play in matches. I’m seeing what I need to from my kids.”
Lincoln Northeast was 1-1 in pool play going into a late Friday match with Omaha Central, then pulled out an 18-25, 26-24, 25-21 victory to also advance to the championship bracket. The Rockets lost to three-time defending state champion Papillion-La Vista South 23-25, 25-16, 25-19, but then topped eventual pool champion Millard North 25-23, 25-23.
Millard North, ranked No. 8, handed the Titans their first Class A loss since the 2009 state championship match with a 25-14, 25-14 pool victory.
Northeast all-stater Toni Tupper had 49 kills combined in the three matches, including 21 against Central. Setter Megan Sattler had 83 assists and Natalie Bohac put up 39 digs.
"Toni's leadership was huge tonight, but we also had some young kids step up and pleasantly surprise us," Northeast coach Craig Songster said. "The way things are in Class A, anything's possible tomorrow."