Posted On: 07/31/15 2:15 AM

KEARNEY – A pair of teams which finished just one win shy of reaching a state championship match in 2014 squared off for the Class D division title this afternoon at the Nebraska Top 10 Camp at Kearney Catholic.

Exeter-Milligan, which finished third in Class D-2 a year ago, and Diller-Odell, last year’s third-place team in Class D-1, played each other in the final championship pool match of the day and each entered the match with an identical 10-2 record. After Diller-Odell won the first set 25-21, Exeter-Milligan stormed back to take the second set 25-11. With both teams having identical records and having split their match, the tie-breaker came down to total points in the match between the two teams, which gave Exeter-Milligan the championship.

Hampton, which swept CWC in its final match, finished third with a mark of 10-4.

Below are the final results from the 16-team Class D division as well as notes from both days of competition:

Gold Pool

1.) Exeter-Milligan 11-3
2.) Diller-Odell 11-3
3.) Hampton 10-4
4.) Stuart 7-7
5.) Emerson-Hubbard 7-7
6.) Lawrence-Nelson 6-8
7.) CWC 4-10
8.) Howells-Dodge 0-14

Silver Pool (records not available)

1.) Friend
2.) Bertrand
3.) Meridian
4.) Leyton
5.) Cedar Bluffs
6.) Ansley-Litchfield
7.) Mullen
8.) Laurel-Concord


It would be easy to look at Exeter-Milligan’s second-set win over Diller-Odell as the reason it was able to capture the team championship, but yesterday it won its second set against Emerson-Hubbard 34-32 and also held on first a 27-25 win in its first set over Howells-Dodge. Finding a way to win those sets is what put Exeter-Milligan in position to control its own destiny heading into the final match.

Exeter-Milligan better get used to playing in dogfights as it will have plenty this year in a loaded Class D-2 and in the Crossroads Conference.

Junior Hailey Luzum, at just 5-foot-6, will likely wind-up among the top kill leaders in Class D-2 for Exeter-Milligan this year – after all, she did have 26 in three state tournament matches last year. But, what really impressed me about her the last two days has been her defense. From the back row she was consistently passing 3s to the setter and keeping Exeter-Milligan consistently in system. She is going to be a helluva libero/DS for somebody at the next level.

With two-time defending Class D-1 champion O’Neill St. Mary’s dropping down to Class D-2 this year, it has opened the door for Diller-Odell to make a championship run. I’m sure there are a couple sets that Griffins’ coach Kandice Jurgens would like to have back from the camp, but posting a 13-3 record against the gold pool competition is proof they might just be the team to beat in D-1 this year.

Right now, I would call Diller-Odell 5-foot-10 junior setter Madison Jurgens one of the two best setters in the state with Omaha Skutt’s Ali Schomers. Schomers has already committed to the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Jurgens is getting interest from some Division I power-conference schools and she looked every bit the part of a standout during competition. Junior teammate Madison Hajek, a 5-foot-9 middle, also was impressive as well with her blocking and explosive leaping.

Hampton, in my opinion, was the most athletic team in the division. Madison VanHousen, a 5-foot-10 junior outside hitter, is a member of the NPV Class of 2017 Super 25 and she played at that level the last two days. She has a listed vertical of 24 inches and she probably plays higher above the net than just about any other Class D player.

Stuart has had tremendous success the past two season, reaching the Class D-2 state championship match in 2013, 2014 and returns several key pieces from last year. Because of that, it was a little bit surprising that the Broncos went just 7-7. For what it’s worth, Stuart’s vibe on the court just wasn’t that great for whatever reason. Junior outside hitter Harlee Fischer looked really good at times with her quick arm swing and leaping and senior setter Jaden Schafer was steady, but the team just seemed to lack energy on the court.

Emerson-Hubbard, which has the talent to contend for a Class D-1 title, kind of had the same vibe as Stuart. The Pirates were definitely the quietest team I saw this week, regardless of class. There was not much chatter on the court for Emerson-Hubbard, which is never a good thing. Senior Kylie Belt, a 6-foot middle, had the standard ACL recovery brace on her left leg and this was the first I saw of her since she suffered her injury in the 2014 district finals. She still has a little hitch in her giddy-up and didn’t really push it much in terms of lateral movement defensively, which is smart considering it’s only July and the important matches are still 2-3 months away. Belt was still devastating with her attacks, but clearly wasn’t as explosive with her leaping – as you would expect. Until she’s healthy enough to get back to being able to hit over blockers, a key for Emerson-Hubbard will be making sure its setters don’t pin her against blocks and set her far enough off the net to allow her to hit around or tool the block.

CWC has some nice height and ability but it looks to be a work in progress. Regan Dierks, a 6-foot-1 junior, had some really nice moments. She doesn’t quit look like she’s ready to be a dominating force at the net, but you can tell the potential is there as she gets more experience and confidence. As a sophomore last year, she actually had more blocks (82) than kills (81). Tami Jo Marcellus and Jacie Laetech also had some nice performances.

Mollie Kaps, a 5-foot-10 senior for Bertrand, Mandi Stansberry, a 5-foot-7 senior for Cedar Bluffs, and Brooke Baugh, a 5-foot-11 junior from Friend, were each outstanding over the past two days. All three are potential first team all-state players for their class. Baugh would be a starting outside for probably 80-85% of Class A teams. She plays high above the net and hits with Class A-level power.