WAVERLY – The Waverly Viking volleyball team took a nine-day layoff in stride and beat Class A Elkhorn 3-1 (25-23, 25-20, 24-26, 25-16) in its final regular season match Thursday, Oct. 24.
The Vikings traveled to Elkhorn for a date with the Antlers as they geared up for a lengthy postseason and shook off the dust after a week-plus break from competitive volleyball.
Head Coach Terri Neujahr said the first set was back and forth battle after the Vikings jumped out to a lead and the Antlers slowly chipped away at it.
“We knew it was going to be a challenging match,” Neujahr said. “They are probably the best blocking team we have seen this year.”
The opening set became a battle of wills and it came down to who could answer the bell.
“It was a matter of who could be two points better at the end of that set and we were able to pull it out,” Neujahr said. “I think Elkhorn could have pulled it out as well.”
In set two, Neujahr said she challenged her team to adjust and speed up their pace and the Vikings responded and pulled out an easier win.
Neujahr described the Vikings’ 24-26 set three loss succinctly.
“The third set happened, that was awful,” Neujahr said.
The fourth and final set sent the Vikings out on a good note, though.
Neujahr said that the Antlers changed their base blocking scheme to shade towards junior outside hitters Whitney Lauenstein and Bailey Jeffers and that it opened up a lot of holes in the Elkhorn defense.
As the Antlers focused on the outside hitters, the right side of the Viking attack opened up for senior hitter Mollie Grosshans and senior middle blockers Atley Carey and Abby Plouzek.
Grosshans, Carey and Plouzek would combine to finish with 23 kills on 50 swings with only four errors.
Despite the focus on Lauenstein and Jeffers, Lauenstein still finished the match with 24 kills as she hit a stellar .420 in attack.
Neujahr said that while often overlooked, Waverly’s back row is what makes the Vikings work so well.
Senior libero Kelsey Perrotto and defensive specialists junior Kila Jordon and sophomore Karsen VanScoy keep the Vikings in system and allow senior setter Annika Evans to deliver the ball wherever she needs.
“I wouldn’t trade my back row for really anybody,” Neujahr said.
With the win, the Vikings end their regular season with a 26-3 record and look destined for a run at a state title.
Waverly begins that journey as they host subdistricts Oct. 29, where they will face the winner of a match between Plattsmouth and Nebraska City.
The Vikings have previous experience this season with both the Blue Devils and the Pioneers, both matches ended in Viking sweeps.
Even if the Vikings are upset in subdistricts they are basically assured one of the eight wildcard bids into a district final due to being No. 3 in NSAA Playoff Points.
District finals will be held Saturday, Nov. 2. The winners of those eight games will make up the State Tournament field.