OMAHA – Apparently Ord didn’t make the 180-mile trip to the UNO Competitive Team Camp just to play. The Chanticleers came to win.
After the first day of the two-day camp, Ord has itself firmly positioned for a shot to play for a team title at the camp. The Chanticleers played six matches today and dropped just two sets of the 12 they played. Their opponents included Millard West, Bellevue West, Grand Island, Elkhorn South, Pierce and Union (IA). That 10-2 mark has Ord in the top four in its 16-team pool along with Elkhorn South, Omaha Marian and Millard West.
At the UNO camp, teams are divided into two pools of 16 and play nine matches. At the end of those nine matches the teams are re-pooled according to their standings in the original pool to bring the top teams together for the final matches.
If the way Ord played today is any indication, it stands an outstanding chance at finishing in the top four of its pool and possibly even winning it. The Chanticleers catch a scheduling break and don’t have to face Marian. Their final three pool-play matches tomorrow morning are against Grand Island Northwest’s B Team, Millard North and Harrisburg. Meanwhile, Omaha Marian and Millard West will play each other in the final pool-play match for each of them at Noon tomorrow.
It certainly isn’t a shock that Ord is playing well. The Chanticleers return four players with more than 100 kills from last year’s 25-6, have one of the state’s best setters in senior Morgan Alexander and they play relentless defense. But it is surprising that they have played fearlessly against the largest programs and been successful. Ord swept Millard West and split with Elkhorn South – both teams likely to be ranked among the top 10 in the state. It’s worth noting Millard West played the match with Ord using its younger rotation, but Millard West’s younger rotation is still pretty darn good.
While Ord, Elkhorn South, Omaha Marian and Millard West are currently at the top of their pool, the remaining teams in that pool are Union, Bellevue West, Grand Island, Pierce, Grand Island Northwest B Team, Millard North, Harrisburg, Kearney, Sioux City Heelan, Valley (MO), Columbus Scotus and Roosevelt.
Meanwhile, in the other pool, a pair of traditional Iowa powers and one of Nebraska’s most successful high school programs are at the top. Grand Island Northwest is joined at the top of the pool along with Iowa’s Grundy Central and Ankney Centennial. North Platte and Elkhorn aren’t far behind. Other teams in the pool include O’Gorman (SD), St. Paul, Beatrice, Columbus, Omaha Marian B Team, Omaha Concordia, Millard South, Savannah, Grand Island Central Catholic, Lincoln North Star and Central (MO).
Pool-play resumes tomorrow at 9 a.m. at Sapp Fieldhouse on the UNO campus. Teams will wrap up pool play at 12:35 and then been re-pooled with those final matches beginning at 1:30 and ending at 5:30.
Don’t let anyone tell you that competitive juices don’t get going just because it’s a July team camp. Each match at the camp has a time limit to make sure everyone stays on schedule. In one match featuring a pair of Omaha-area schools, a team that was leading by one point in a set with right about one minute remaining on the master clock called a timeout, allowing the master clock to run out and assure a victory in the set.
Then, there was the match between Elkhorn and North Platte. Both teams are legitimate title contenders in Class B and Class A, respectively, and without a doubt both teams want to have successful summers and carry it right over into the start of the season. The two teams split two very competitive sets and North Platte was leading the third set 10-9 when time expired. Let’s just say the energy and emotion was palpable during the match, as were the glares and body language being sent back-and-forth across the net. Nothing nasty or out of line – just intense. As I tweeted after the match, I don’t think players from the two teams will exchange Christmas cards. It would be fun to watch them play again during the season, but it’s highly unlikely their paths cross.
Elkhorn’s Claire Mountjoy lost a fight with a net support pole and will have a scar to prove it. That was early in the day and required a trip to get several stitches to close up a deep cut on her knee. By the end of the day she was back with her team. Word is that she will need about a month recovery time but should be good to go by the start of the season. The junior had more than 160 kills and 300 digs last year for the Antlers.
North Platte all-state outside hitter Allison Kuenle – a Nebraska-Kearney recruit – tweaked her ankle early in the day and sat out the remainder of the matches. She said it didn’t seem like anything major and that she was just being overly cautious by sitting out and might try and play tomorrow.
Omaha Skutt, Elkhorn, Elkhorn South and Gretna are all loaded teams in Class B this year, but Grand Island Northwest announced its presence in the Class B title contender discussion with authority today. The Vikings return all but three players from their 26-7 team a year ago.
Bill Root always does good work at Grand Island and the Islands appear, at least at this point, to be a top 10 Class A team. McKenzie Puckett played extremely well for the Islanders today.
Columbus Scotus standout Kimberly Stutzman, one of the top returning players for the Shamrocks, is on course to be back playing in October according to coach Joe Held. Stutzman is recovering from a torn ACL.
A pair of the state’s top incoming freshmen, libero Jaiden Centeno and OH Jordan McCormick, are here with Millard West’s varsity and are holding their own so far when they get on the court. Cassidy Loberg – a Central Missouri recruit – looks in mid-season form for the Wildcats. Millard West’s Sydney Stockfleth, who started her high school career as a back row player, is now an impressive outside hitter despite being undersized for the position. She has quietly worked her way into being one of Class A’s most complete players.
It looks like life after Megan Wickey will be just fine for Omaha Concordia as they have looked sharp so far today despite not having returning starter Sydney Clarkson, who is nursing an injury. Concordia lost to North Platte in two very competitive sets.
Millard South has been playing this morning with Madison Stearns at outside hitter, a switch from her middle spot.
Omaha Marian is playing without Creighton libero recruit Brittany Witt and all-state right side Elizabeth Loschen, both with Team USA obligations, as well as senior setter Maren McGuire.
Elkhorn South has been using a variety of rotations in which both Kelsey Green and Sarah Swanson are seeing time as OH. Depth won’t be an issue for the Storm and a frontline rotation that has both Green and Swanson – both middles previously – in it at the same time would be dominant.
Here are – in my opinion at least – the key matches to round out pool play tomorrow morning:
9 a.m. – Grand Island Northwest vs. Elkhorn
9:45 a.m. – Elkhorn South vs. Grand Island
10:20 a.m. – Lincoln North Star vs. Omaha Marian B Team
10:55 a.m. – Ord vs. Millard North
11:30 a.m. – Ankeny Centennial vs. North Platte
12:05 p.m. – Millard West vs. Omaha Marian A Team