OMAHA – Waverly’s Olivia Boender made sure the third time wouldn’t be the charm for Gretna when the two teams played for the Skyhawk Invitational championship today at Omaha Skutt High School.
Boender, a Nebraska recruit, slammed home 15 kills in leading the Vikings to a 25-9, 25-21 win over Gretna in the championship match. It was the second time in the tournament the two teams played each other and the third time on the season. Waverly has won all three matches.
Sophomore Brianna Boender added six kills while Dani Root, a West Virginia recruit, had five kills and four ace serves as well for Waverly.
“We have a lot of options and that makes it hard to defend,” Waverly coach Terri Neujahr said. “Any time you have three or four options – and most teams don’t have that many options – it makes things difficult. We’ve been working hard in practice and want to make sure we’re ourselves ready to be at the right place at the right time.”
Waverly wasted little time getting taking control of the first set against Gretna, jumping to a 9-0 lead as Root had three of her ace serves in that stretch for the Vikings. The closest the Dragons would come after that would be 10-3 on a kill by Halie McArdle.
The second set looking like it was going to be identical as the first when Olivia Boender had kills on the first two points and another Root ace made it 3-0 Vikings. But, this time the Dragons recovered and they were able to take a 12-10 lead Jaisa Russell and Sara Rahmanzai combined on a block of Olivia Boender.
The teams would later find themselves tied at 12, 13, and 14 before Waverly went on a short run to pull out to a 17-14 lead on an Olivia Boender ace.
Gretna got back within 20-19 on a kill by UNO recruit Natalie Mickelson and stayed close at 21-20 on a Waverly miscue, but the Vikings were able to put the match away, with Brianna Boender getting the final two kills to end it.
Mickelson, at 5-foot-9, is heading to UNO primarily for her back-row play, but as the lone senior starter for the Dragons, Gretna coach Mike Brandon said it’s important she play with an aggressive mindset offensively to set an example for the underclassmen. Mickelson finished with 11 kills in the match, including eight in the tight second set, despite regularly going up against Waverly’s trio of 6-foot-plus players.
“I told Natalie that you’ve got to lead by example if we’re going to beat a good time like Waverly,” Brandon said. “And for her, at her height, to keep on taking big swings against Waverly’s big block is just a great example for our kids to follow.”
Gretna, which entered the tournament ranked #9 in Class B, reached the championship match with a three-set win over Class A Bellevue West in pool play and then by upsetting #3 Omaha Skutt in the semifinals in two sets.
“This was a very positive tournaments for us. Beating Bellevue West and Skutt were big wins for us,” Brandon said.
In the third-place match, Skutt defeated Norris 2-0.