OMAHA – For most high school volleyball programs, graduating nine seniors that were the core of a three-year run as Class A state champions would lead to a period of transition. Especially when you consider that those seniors contributed 75% of the team kills, 94% of the team ace serves, 80% of the team blocks, 90% of the team digs and 84% of the team assists.
Omaha Marian, though, isn’t most programs.
A little more than a week after winning the Creighton team camp title, Omaha Marian was pretty much dominant again in winning the unofficial championship at the UNO camp. There is no official “championship” at the UNO team camp. Teams spend the first day-and-a-half competing in two pools and then spend Saturday afternoon competing in new pools against new opponents based on their standings. Marian finished first in its 18-team pool and then posted a 5-1 set record against the top three teams from the other pool to cement its status as the top team at the camp. Marian swept Ankeny Centennial of Iowa – which won the other initial 18-team pool – 25-15, 25-21 in the final match of the competition.
Here is how the top four teams from each of the initial two pools finished (record-wise) in the “championship” session when they were pooled together:
Omaha Marian 5-1
Dike-New Hartford (Iowa) 4-2
St. Paul 3-3
Grand Island Northwest 3-3
Kearney Catholic 2-4
Ankeny Centennial 2-4
Grand Island Central Catholic 1-5
Here are how teams finished in each of the first two initial pools:
South Sioux City
Grand Island Central Catholic
Grand Island Northwest
Lincoln Pius X
Sioux City Heelan
Sioux Falls O’Gorman
Here are some notes and thoughts from the UNO team camp:
You really can’t say enough good things about Omaha Marian and how the Crusaders have looked this summer. Marian did not have one of its top returning players in athletic 6-foot-2 junior middle Sarah Wing, who was camping at the University of Iowa, but still showed it is the team to beat again in Class A. Junior setter Lily Heim is one of the best setters in the state and this is her show to run now after two years of part-time play behind Maren McGuire. The Crusaders will have Division I-level talent in the back row – again – and junior Maggie Mullen looks like a name you will want to get to know in Marian’s back row. Sophomores Emily Bressman (200+ kills a year ago) and Hailey Zuroske are – despite their youth – going to be one of the best L1, L2 combos in the state. It’s still only the middle of July, but right now if appears Marian is going to head into the season as the favorite to win Class A for a potentially fourth-straight year.
Gretna is another school that has looked really good this summer and the combination of senior setter Cameron Scott and senior middle Mallory Yost is going to give a lot of teams problems. Yost is a UTEP recruit and is poised for a huge season, which seems strange to say considering she had 280+ kills and 45 blocks a year ago. Yost, though, looks to have the most confidence I’ve seen her with and she has been dominant at the net every time I’ve seen the Dragons this summer and she has an obvious connection that shows in her timing with Scott. Scott holds the state record for most assists in a single match and has gotten interest from small Division I programs. Kamryn Schuler is an athletic sophomore that pairs with senior Jaisa Russell on the outside for a Dragon team that should be a contender in Class B again.
Grand Island Central Catholic returns just one player that had more than 10 kills for the Crusaders a year ago and it also lost its setter, but you wouldn’t have known that based on how it looked at UNO. GICC returns one of the state’s best sophomores in 5-10 Megan Woods, who is drawing Division I interest, and the Crusaders added 5-8 senior transfer Madison Myers of Centura, who had 285 kills, 276 assists and 144 digs a year ago. Sophomores Jenna Lowry and Kamryn Willman senior libero Madison Liske also impressed.
St. Paul pretty much impressed everyone at the camp with its scrappy play and relentless energy. At 5-8, senior Leslie Fox is still one of the state’s best players as a do-it-all OH for St. Paul and senior setter Claira Thede impressed me greatly with her play. In terms of size and stature, she reminds me a lot of Gretna’s Scott and former Ord setter Morgan Alexander but she also showed she’s a similar athlete and play maker as well.
Kearney Catholic only had seven players and they were up-and-down at times during competition, but you get the sense that the way Kearney Catholic looked this weekend will be much different than the way it will look come September. But when you have seniors Kylie Thiele and Anna Squiers to build a team around, that’s about as good as it gets.
Grand Island Northwest – much like Gretna – will not only be one of the title contenders in Class B, but will also be one of the top teams in the state regardless of class. Kylie Broich is the kind of player every coach wants. Broich does everything extremely well on the court and the Vikings will be one of the deepest and most balanced teams in the state.
Millard North showed off some of its outstanding young talent in both the front row and back row at UNO. Two of the Mustangs’ best young front-row players were absent with 6-foot Emmy Grant being on vacation and 6-2 Emma Grunkemeyer attending college camps. Also missing was libero Madi Evans, who was sick. With with those absences, the depth of Millard North’s program showed with the Mustangs still finishing fifth in their initial pool.
Potentially the biggest impact freshman of the year in Class A could be Bellevue West 5-10 setter Brooklyn Schram. She’s going to be a special player. The T-birds will be extremely young but there will be a lot of talent on the court for them and they showed this weekend it looks to be a program on the upswing.
Millard West might have finished ninth in its pool, but don’t let that fool you. The Wildcats will be right in the thick of things in Class A. They played this weekend without top OH Ashley Bush, who tweaked the wrist on her non-hitting hand earlier in the week. Millard West also didn’t have sophomore libero Jaiden Centeno, who was at college camps, and senior DS Jordan Daniels, who is still recovering from a knee injury during club season. It’s almost an embarrassment of riches in the back row for Millard West. Centeno will be – if she chooses – and major Division I recruit while Daniels is already committed to Air Force as a back-row specialist. Junior Maggie Sempeck – who handled the libero duties this weekend – was part of VCN 16 Elite’s national championship club team and played outstanding and 5-10 sophomore Jordan McCormick played as a full-rotation OH this weekend but is getting Division I interest as a back-row player as well.
No player in the state, in my opinion, has improved more in the last 2-3 years than 5-10 Omaha Concordia sophomore setter Sami Clarkson. Remember that name because she is going to have a monster breakout season this year for the Mustangs.
Monday we will be at the Hastings College team camp, be sure to follow us on Twitter for updates from there.