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It was the Gretna Dragons’ first trip to the Class A state tournament in their first year in Nebraska’s top class and they liked the experience so much they played every set in Thursday’s opening round match that Millard West had to offer at Pinnacle Bank Arena.

In Class A’s most competitive match of the day, the Dragons found a way to outlast the Wildcats in a five-set thriller. The momentum bounced back-and-forth between the two teams as they battled throughout the match, but Gretna just had a little left in the tank in the fifth set to take the match 25-23, 20-25, 25-23, 24-26, 15-10.

“I’m tired but I can’t imagine how tired these girls are after that match,” Gretna coach Mike Brandon said. “We did (show a lot of resiliency). That’s something we’ve done all season. We’ve responded to pressure and dealt with adversity. We showed resilience when they went on runs. They showed resilience when we went on runs. It was a great back-and-forth volleyball match.”

The win pushes Gretna into the semifinals against the Millard North Mustangs on Friday with a chance to head to the state title match. The last time the two teams played, the Mustangs outlasted the Dragons in five sets, so anything can happen in the semifinal.

The two teams are set to tipoff at 7 p.m. with Pinnacle Bank Arena once again playing host.

Omaha Marian 3, Papillion La-Vista 1: A lot of the faces may be new on the state tournament floor this season for Omaha Marian, but the results are just the same as they’ve always been.

The Crusaders dropped a tough opening set to Papillion-La Vista as players adjusted to the big stage, but it didn’t take long to return to form for the defending champions. Marian took the momentum early in the second set and road it to a 24-26, 25-21, 25-20, 25-19 victory to advance to Friday’s semifinals.

“(These new players) have a lot of grit and they really look up to us seniors,” Marian’s Emily Bressman said. “They have a lot of heart, so while we had a lot of (Division I) players leave last season, the talent that we’ve had replace them is just as high as last year.”

The opening-round matchup pitted Bressman, a Creighton recruit, against her future Bluejay teammate, Papio’s Norah Sis. Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth had to be thrilled watching the quarterfinal matchup because her future players dominated the action.

Bressman led all players with 21 kills while Sis, just a sophomore, recorded 20 kills and two blocks in the loss.

The win sets up quite the semifinal matchup, where storylines abound. The Crusaders are looking to make their sixth title-match appearance in seven seasons while Lincoln Pius X, which won in a sweep over Millard South, attempts to become the first Lincoln school to advance to the championship in 17 seasons.

The match will begin at 5 p.m. Friday with Pinnacle Bank Arena playing host.

Millard North 3, Papillion-La Vista South 0: The lights on the state tournament stage shine just a little bit brighter, even if a team has plenty of experience with them.

For the Millard North Mustangs, it took awhile, half a set to be exact, to get used to the Pinnacle Bank Arena stage despite a rich history at the facility. Once they settled in, it was all business.

The Mustangs held a 15-14 lead in the opening set of their quarterfinal contest with Papillion-La Vista South before recording 10 of the last 14 points to take the opening set. The late run must’ve inspired Millard North, because the Titans just couldn’t keep up over the final two sets and the Mustangs rolled to a 25-18, 25-12, 25-18 victory to advance to the semifinals.

“I think we got comfortable. We came in a little bit tight, which I think happens to a lot of teams coming into this situation,” Millard North coach Lindsay Peterson said. “You would think after being here the past two seasons that wouldn’t happen, but (it did). It’s all right. We warned them that if they come out like that, they just have to weather the storm and make sure you stay in the match.”

The win moved Millard North just one win away from a third straight championship game berth, and the Mustangs will face Gretna match on Friday with a ticket to the Devaney Sports Center on the line.

Reach the writer at 402-473-7431 or scarlson@journalstar.com.

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