The opening match of the Class A state high school volleyball tournament was hardly a typical No. 1 seed vs. No. 8 matchup, and it didn’t play like one, either.
After an NSAA ruling forfeited 14 of its regular season wins, Class A No. 5 Millard North beat two top-10 teams in district play just to earn its spot at the state tournament. An adjusted record after the NSAA ruling sank the Mustangs to the eighth seed and set a date with top-rated Papillion-La Vista, which entered the tournament with a 36-1 record.
The Mustangs overcame yet another tough opponent, defeating the Monarchs 19-25, 25-23, 25-9, 25-16.
“We’ve been through a lot of things this year that were out of their control and have nothing to do with them and they have taken that and rode with it,” Millard North coach Lindsay Peterson said. “They’ve really stepped up and been resilient.”
That resiliency was tested early when Papillion-La Vista looked every bit as strong as its red-hot record suggested. After the first set, though, the Mustangs quickly came roaring back.
“They were nervous, so that definitely played a role in that match, but we’ve been in so many five-set matches this year that I knew they were going to flip it around,” Peterson said.
A tightly contested second set narrowly fell in Millard North's favor by mere inches on a service error, quickly followed by an utterly dominant third set.
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UNO commit McKenna Ruch and Eve Fountain led Millard North’s offensive charge with 18 kills each in the match, and their combined efforts created the big third-set victory. With the Monarchs in a spot they’d hardly been in all year, trailing late in a match, the fourth set soon followed in Millard North’s favor as well.
Peterson credited her senior leadership for helping the team overcome the first-set nerves. The Mustangs will now play on into the second day of the state tournament, a familiar spot for most of the team. Millard North has played in the state title game three years in a row, and the only team standing in the way of a shot at back-to-back titles will be the Gretna Dragons.
Gretna 3, Millard West 1: Gretna and Millard West traded the first two sets of their opening-round matchup before Gretna pulled away for the third-set victory, winning 25-14, 11-25, 25-16, 25-22.
The fourth set was tight, with the only difference being the play of Skylar Janovich-McCune. She had nine kills in the set and a total of 17 for the match. Lydia Yost added 18 kills.
The Dragons will now face Millard North in the semifinals, a rematch of the season-opener for both teams.
“A lot has changed since the first game of the year, so I don’t know what we did in the first game will matter much tomorrow,” Gretna coach Mike Brandon said. “They’re a better team, I know we’re a better team, and they present a lot of tough matchups.”