WAVERLY – The Waverly Vikings volleyball team punched its ticket to the state tournament with a pair of dominant sweeps in two games last week.
Waverly kicked off postseason play Tuesday as one of three teams in Subdistrict B-3. As the top seed, the Vikings faced off with Nebraska City after the Pioneer’s pulled off a mild upset of the Plattsmouth Blue Devils in the first round, 3-1.
In the Vikings’ first set, they would start off slow but by the end of the set they would make it clear there would be no upset.
After exchanging side outs with the Pioneers, Waverly awoke from an early game haze and strung together a couple of long runs to win the first set, 25-11.
“We weren’t passing very well. We weren’t communicating very well,” Head Coach Terri Neujahr said about early in set one. “When we finally got all our ducks in a row, we really did a phenomenal job of serving and serve receive was really cleaned up after that.”
The Vikings’ good form carried on to a dominant second set that put all of Waverly’s offensive weapons on display.
Junior pin hitter Whitney Lauenstein along with senior Mollie Grosshans picked apart the Pioneer defense from the outside. Senior middle blockers Atley Carey and Abby Plouzek had their pick of lanes to attack from as the Nebraska City defense was caught in a pick-your-poison situation.
Lauenstein was hitting over blocks. As the defense shifted to stop the athletic hitter, Grosshans was left open. The defense tried to adjust again only to find Plouzek and Carey capable of finishing rallies.
For the match, Lauenstein finished with 16 kills on 24 swings with only three errors. Carey hit a perfect 1.000 for the night, turning all 11 of her swings into 11 kills.
As a team, the Vikings hit an astonishing .554 and held the Pioneers to a paltry .160 hitting percentage.
The offensive display ended in a 25-8 Waverly win and put the Vikings one set away from a district final.
As Waverly cleared its bench it set three, the Pioneers held their own and competed hard but were not able to match the Vikings’ physicality.
The Vikings secured the subdistrict title with a 25-16 win and a sweep to set them one win closer to the state tournament.
On Saturday, the Vikings were slated to face No. 15 seeded Lexington.
The Minutemaids found their way to the district final after winning Subdistrict B-7, needing only one sweep over the 5-26 Holdrege Dusters to punch their ticket.
Lexington would find the sledding much tougher in Waverly.
The first set would last less than 20 minutes. Waverly started off on a huge run and never let up on its way to a 25-5 win.
In set two, Lexington would even grab an early lead for a short time but Waverly’s offense was clicking on all cylinders again and the Minutemaids would have no answer.
If the .554 hitting percentage versus Nebraska City was astonishing, the .628 hitting percentage was other-worldly.
The Vikings committed only three errors in attack all afternoon. Lauenstein once again led all hitters with 16 kills. Plouzek added 10 kills and Grosshans, Carey and junior Bailey Jeffers all had more than five kills.
Set three was a new verse in the same song. The Minutemaids never gave up or hung their heads but they were overmatched and Waverly was clicking.
When the final ball hit the court and the score was official, 25-9 in the third set for a three-game sweep, the Vikings piled on to each other near the net and celebrated their district championship and securing their spot in the state championship.
Waverly will enter the tournament in Lincoln as the No. 2 seed. It will be a familiar field for the Vikings as they have faced four of the seven other teams in the field (Norris, Grand Island Northwest, Omaha Duchesne, Sidney).
The Vikings’ first match will be with No. 7 seeded Northwest. The black and gold Vikings have run into the maroon and white Vikings twice in the regular season, both Waverly wins.
The match is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m. at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.
More information on the state tournament can be found at the NSAA’s website, NSAAhome.org.