Posted On: 11/10/16 3:50 PM

This is Omaha Concordia’s fourth trip to the state tournament and the Mustangs will take on St. Paul in the first round. In Concordia’s three previous trips to state it played Grand Island Central Catholic in the first round each time.

Omaha Concordia owns three wins this year over teams in the Class B state tournament, having beat Omaha Duchesne twice and Sidney once.

As successful of a program as St. Paul has had in volleyball, this is only its third trip to state and first since it finished in fourth place in 2008.

St. Paul is 9-1 this year against teams in the state tournament across all classes.

Bishop Neumann is in its eighth state tournament and the Cavaliers have lost in the first round in each of their seven previous appearances.

In winning the Centennial Conference title – which is like a mini state tournament – Bishop Neumann beat Hastings St. Cecilia, Grand Island Central Catholic and Omaha Concordia with a combined set record of 6-1.

Since losing 3-1 to Malcolm on Sept. 29, North Bend Central has won 12 straight matches, losing only two sets in that stretch.

This is North Bend Central’s third time at the state tournament and first appearance since 1997.

Kearney Catholic is looking to make some history this weekend, as it goes for its 5th consecutive Class C-1 title and looks to make its 7th straight trip to the championship match. Since 2009, Kearney Catholic is 18-3 at the state tournament.

Kearney Catholic went 9-2 this year against Tier 1 opponents and the Stars’ two others losses came against Class A Tier 2 teams Papillion-LaVista South and Lincoln Pius X.

This is Ogallala’s 30th trip to state and the Indians have played for a title seven times – winning three championships. The Indians, however, have only advanced past the first round twice in its last 10 appearances.

Ogallala has not lost to a team from Nebraska since a 2-0 loss to St. Paul on Sept. 17.

Malcolm is in its fifth state tournament this year and has lost in the first round in each of its four previous trips.

Malcolm’s path to the state tournament might have been the toughest of anyone, regardless of class, as the Clippers had to beat 18-17 Lincoln Lutheran, 23-6 Lincoln Christian and 26-6 Grand Island Central Catholic to get to Lincoln.

Chadron is making its fifth consecutive state tournament appearance and eighth overall.

Chadron is 4-2 against teams in the Class B state tournament field – including a win over Grand Island Northwest – but is just 1-3 against teams in the Class C-1 field.

Predictions

Quarterfinals

Omaha Concordia over St. Paul

Bishop Neumann over North Bend Central

Kearney Catholic over Ogallala

Malcolm over Chadron

Semifinals

Omaha Concordia over Bishop Neumann

Malcolm over Kearney Catholic

Championship

Omaha Concordia over Malcolm

Final Thoughts

I know, I’m off my rocker on these predictions. There is no doubt that the Class C-1 field is pretty much wide open and the team that wins it all will have to play amazing volleyball all weekend. In my heart, I think seeing St. Paul play Kearney Catholic for the final would be epic but the more that I think about – and maybe I’m over thinking here – I like Concordia’s chances.

First, let’s not kid ourselves, Concordia is loaded with talent. I think the Mustangs’ Sami Clarkson is probably the best setter in the C-1 field and Concordia has two big-time outsides in Averey Yaksich and Taylor Pribyl, strong blocking in the middle and incredible defense with Ava Curtiss, Victoria Jones and Jenna Spellerberg. I worry that St. Paul has expended so much energy and focus on just getting to state that there might not be the gas needed left in the tank. I think a Neumann match could favor Concordia because it is really hard to beat a good team three times in a season, which is what Neumann would have to do.

Malcolm is simply special. It seems like the popular thing to say about teams these days, but the Clippers just have that “grit” about them. Jaela Zimmerman is going to have a monster state tournament – I promise that. But this bracket is too tough for one player to carry a team all the way, which is why Hayley Densberger is the key for the Clippers. If she plays at a high level all weekend the Clippers may just leave Lincoln as state champs.