LINCOLN - In Waverly’s opening match of the state tournament, the Vikings fizzled early but found a spark in the second set and caught fire from there.
Waverly put on a show for the top man in Nebraska volleyball, as Nebraska’s John Cook along with his Assistant Coach Jaylen Reyes, witnessed a 3-1 (23-25, 25-8, 25-17, 25-7) win over the Northwest Vikings.
“They were super ‘loosey goosey’ at home today before we even left and just all kinds of silly, weird just like they always are,” Waverly Head Coach Terri Neujahr said. “We stepped on the floor and they were so tight. Once we got that out of the way and they recognized it, they flipped the script and played a lot better in (sets) two, three and four.”
Waverly started with a 4-0 run but Northwest chipped away and eventually took a 7-6 lead. The Vikings responded and again pulled away by four points to make it 15-11 but the black and gold Vikings would not go lightly.
Again, Northwest would give Waverly a run and took a 17-16 lead. The two teams would exchange small runs and sideouts.
Waverly held a 23-22 lead but two Waverly errors and a Northwest kill gave Northwest the win in set one.
Waverly racked up nine errors, either from attack or the serving line, in set one and despite looking dominant physically Northwest did just enough to take the tight set.
That would be the last tight set either set of Vikings would see.
Set two started off with a vengeance for Waverly.
Four big, booming kills off the swing of junior outside hitter Whitney Lauenstein gave the maroon Vikings another 4-0 lead to start the set. This time though, Waverly would not take its foot off the gas pedal.
Soon, it was 8-1 and Northwest took a timeout to try and stem the tide. It seemed to only slow it.
After two consecutive Lauenstein kills, Northwest took its last timeout of the set with the score 17-7.
Northwest would manage one more point in the set as Waverly reeled off eight points with senior hitter Mollie Grosshans putting the exclamation point on the set with two consecutive kills of her own.
Set three would start off much like the first two, with Waverly jumping out to a 10-1 lead forcing another Northwest timeout.
Waverly’s lead would shrink from 11 to eight and back again as Northwest was unable to sustain any long runs and never threatened Waverly.
After missing match point on three tries, Neujahr called a timeout to settle her squad and it paid off as senior Atley Carey finished the match with a strong kill to give Waverly a 2-1 lead in the match.
In the final set, the black and gold Vikings of Northwest looked like they were ready to stage a comeback as they blunted the early Waverly attack that caught them in the previous three sets.
Two Lauenstein errors and a net violation on Waverly gave Northwest a 5-3 lead until a Grosshans kill gave Waverly the serve back and up stepped senior defensive specialist Makenzie Brehm to the serving line.
With Brehm serving Northwest tough, Waverly was able to reel off six straight points. A Waverly net violation ended the run but the Vikings were able to go from down 4-5 to up 10-6 and give themselves some breathing room.
The Waverly run took the wind out of Northwest’s sails.
Senior defensive specialist Karsen VanScoy exceeded Brehm’s success and served 11 straight points to cap the game as Waverly put the match to rest.
For the night, Lauenstein finished with 28 kills followed by nine for Grosshans and junior outside hitter Bailey Jeffers.
VanScoy had two aces and 17 digs, only senior libero Kelsey Perrotto had more digs with 18.
The win over Northwest put the Vikings into the semifinals where they would meet up with perennial power Omaha Duchesne Academy on Friday night at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
The two-seeded Vikings were shocked by the Cardinals in five sets 22-25, 25-13, 25-21, 18-25 and 7-15.
The Vikings struggled with serve receive in the first set, but after a trio of kills from Jeffers the Vikings found themselves on top 18-17.
The Cardinals block then took over and OD was able to score eight of the final 13 points in the first set to win 25-22.
The Vikings bounced back and appeared to be in control after winning sets two and three by scores of 25-13 and 25-21.
Cardinal Coach Andrew Wehrli switched up his rotation in the fourth set and it paid off as the Cardinals were able to pull out a 25-18 win in set four.
The win seemed to steal all of the momentum away from the Vikings and it was no contest in the fifth set with OD winning by a score of 15-7.
“They had a different server serving into one of our weaker serve receive rotations and we couldn’t get out of it,” she said.
Jeffers piled up 18 kills to lead the Vikes. Lauenstein added 14 more against the Cardinals.
Evans handed out 47 set assists to the hitters along the front row.