OMAHA – If you are looking for a division prime for watching top volleyball talent and catching a glimpse of high-profile major college coaches, then the 16 Open division is where you should find yourself this weekend at the Asics President’s Day Classic in Omaha.
Five teams ranked among the top 33 in the nation by Prep Volleyball are competing in 16 Open this weekend. The 20-team division is divided into five pools of four teams each. After pool play on Saturday, 12 of the 20 teams will advance in championship play. On Sunday, there will be three pools of four teams with the top two teams in each pool advancing to Monday’s championship bracket.
Mizuno Northern Lights 161 is the top overall seed in the division and ranked #9 in the nation. Nebraska Elite 16 Meraki (#27 in the nation), Colorado Juniors 16 Kevin (#33 in the nation), KC Power 161 (#20 in the nation) and Ozark Juniors 161 each earned top seeds in their respective pools.
Mizuno Northern Lights, out of the Minneapolis area, will bring its standard crop of giants into Omaha with its 161 squad. Madison Bremer, a 6-foot-1 middle, is already committed to Northern Colorado, and she might not even be the best player at the net for the team. Northern Lights also has 6-2 Kayla Blair in the middle to go with 6-2 RS Ellie Koontz and 6-3 outside hitter Grace Persson.
While Nebraska Elite 16 Meraki is ranked #27 in the nation, this weekend is an opportunity for the team to establish itself as a legitimate national title contender. Elite has tremendous talent and flexibility at the net with Omaha Marian sophomore duo Sarah Wing and Madelynn Wiedenfeld along with Fort Calhoun sophomore Rylee Marshall, Omaha Skutt freshman Sydney McDermott, Millard North sophomore Kate Bilyeu and Council Bluffs Lewis Central sophomore Katherine Poore. If that wasn’t enough, Elite also has two of the hardest hitting outsides in the state in Marian freshman Emily Bressman and Omaha Duchesne sophomore Julianna Kalil. Maggie Mullen of Omaha Marian anchors the defense. Millard West’s Sydney Daniels and Marian’s Kennedy Stormberg are both underrated and tremendous setters for Elite.
If you don’t know the name Keely Davis yet, you’re going to want to commit it to memory. The thunderous 6-foot OH for Colorado Juniors 16 Kevin is a Creighton recruit and one of the best players in the state of Colorado. As a sophomore at Rock Canyon High School this past fall, Davis had 352 kills and 279 digs to lead her team to a record of 22-6 as the only sophomore on the squad. Setter Alyssa Hand operates an up-tempo offense for Colorado Juniors. Also watch for Kate Menz on the outside and Kyra Cavanaugh and Abby Heimlicher on the right side.
KC Power pretty much overhauled its roster from last year, so the talent level is there. The question is how all the new faces gel this early in the club season. Taylor Kuper is an outside hitter that came to Power from Dynasty while Jaiden Chase is a setter/libero that switched to Power from Asics MAVS. Annika Welty is a 6-2 middle and Marissa Hines is a legit 6-foot setter.
In the fifth pool, Ozarks Juniors 161 takes the top seed but is a relative unknown which finds itself in a difficult pool with Premier 16 Gold and CIA 16 Black – the #28 team in the nation.
CIA 16 Black has a pair of 6-3 middles in Morgan Bossler and Carly Spies and 6-foot pin hitter Jenna Wagemester. Sydney Petersen might be one of the best 16s liberos you will see for CIA while 5-10 setter Tayah Mahi is the straw that stirs the drink and the daughter of Northern Iowa assistant coach Kalani Mahi. As a sophomore at Cedar Falls High School, Mahi was 2nd Team All-State in Class 5A – Iowa’s largest. She was the only sophomore to earn either 1st or 2nd team honors in 5A.
Premier 16 Gold, meanwhile, is fresh off winning the 16 Open title in the Best of the Midwest Invite a couple weeks ago and is solid in the middle with 6-foot-3 Omaha Westside sophomore Clara Lamb, 6-foot Millard West freshman Hailey Petersen and 5-10 Papillion-LaVista sophomore Sydney Fitzgibbons. Ralston’s Taylor Skiles and Millard West’s Ashley Bush are dynamic outside hitters while Papillion-LaVista’s Mckenzie Michalek, Omaha Duchesne’s Ellie Lammers and Omaha Skutt’s Megan Sutera give the team a strong back row. Millard North’s Nami Surendranath and Omaha Skutt’s Delaney Saucier handle the setting.
VCNebraska 16 Elite drew a tough pool, getting matched-up with top-seeded Northern Lights, but the team coached by former Husker setter Mary Pollmiller has the potential to turn some heads this weekend. Kelsie Cada is a tremendous 6-foot freshman outside hitter from Wahoo Neumann that has drawn the attention of several college coaches, including those in Lincoln. Rachel Walker of Lincoln Southwest is one of the most versatile players in the state and 6-foot middle Coree Lipovsky of Sandy Creek and Wahoo’s Madilyn Larson are very good players that won’t be flying under the radar much longer.
Nebraska ONE 16 Krush is another home-state team that could find itself in the championship bracket on Monday if things go well. The squad features a pair of the state’s best freshman attackers in Freeman’s Kayla Haynes and Lincoln Southwest’s Jaden Ferguson. The team also has Lincoln Southeast’s Melanie Brecka and sneaky-good Avery Dolliver of Lincoln Christian at the net and Lincoln Southwest sophomore Kaitlin Siefkes, who has the ability to be an all-state libero in the coming years.
Here are how the teams are divided into pools to start competition on Saturday morning.
Pool 1 – Mizuno Northern Lights 161, Club ONE 16 Black, Colorado Juniors 16 Kirk, VCNebraska 16 Elite
Pool 2 – Nebraska Elite 16 Meraki, Gold Cal Juniors 16 Air, Rocky Select 16 Black, CIA 16 Silver.
Pool 3 – Colorado Juniors 16 Kevin, CIS 16M, Minnesota Select 161, Nebraska ONE 16 Krush.
Pool 4 – KC Power 161, Mizuno Northern Lights 162, OP2 EP, LVBC 16 Black.
Pool 5 – Ozark Juniors 161, Premier 16 Gold, CIA 16 Black, Springfield Juniors 16 Blue.
In the 16 Club division, Mizuno Northern Lights 16B has the top overall seed in the 56-team tournament. Nebraska Elite 16 Dynamis is the highest-seeded Nebraska team in the division at #12 overall.