WAVERLY – In a clash between two teams at the top of their class, Waverly swept Lincoln Lutheran in its season opener, Aug. 29.
Waverly, preseason #3 in the Omaha World-Herald’s Class B ratings, won 25-22, 25-12 and 25-17.
In set one, the Class C-1 #2 Warriors took an early lead though never by more than three.
By the middle of the first game, the Warriors took a 15-16 lead after a Vikings hitting error and a Lincoln Lutheran kill.
That would be their last lead of the game. Senior Mollie Grosshans’ strong serve, including an ace, would propel the Vikings to an 18-16 lead. And they would never look back.
The Vikings finally slowed Lincoln Lutheran’s 2018 All-State outside hitter Marriah Buss. Junior Whitney Lauenstein, senior Abby Plouzek and Grosshans would all register kills to finish off game one.
Set two was a different story. Waverly jumped out to a quick 8-3 lead on their way to a 13-point win.
Waverly head coach Terri Neujahr said that after the hard fought first set, that the Vikings knew they would need to keep up the pressure in the second.
“Lincoln Lutheran’s a team that if they get beat in the first set they’re going to come out bigger, faster, stronger in the second because they’re a really well coached team,” Neujahr said.
A potent short serve facilitated two big runs. Sophomore Karsen VanScoy gave the Warrior defense fits scoring four unanswered points.
After a Lauenstein kill ended a Lincoln Lutheran bid to close the lead to five, senior Kelsey Perrotto’s served helped the Vikings rip off six straight points.
Before Perrotto finished serving she had two big aces to push the Vikings’ lead to 12, at 20-8.
Senior Atley Carey finished off the second game with a kill from the middle to put Waverly up two games.
Set three was closer, but by that point Waverly had figured out the recipe for beating the Warriors.
An inconsistent but effective serve kept Lincoln Lutheran out of system and stifled Buss’ effect.
Buss, the senior Wichita State commit, struggled to have the same impact that she had in game one as she was stuck in the back row for long stretches of sets two and three.
Buss finished the night with 14 kills on 34 attacks.
The Viking attack was hard to stop as Lauenstein, Plouzek and senior setter Annika Evans set the pace.
Evans, a Nebraska walk-on commit, used the second hit dump effectively in the second and third games as Lincoln Lutheran pushed its defense to the edges to combat Lauenstein and company’s big attacks.
Lauenstein and Plouzek would lead the Vikings in kills with 10 and eight, respectively, but four Vikings finished with five or more kills.
The Warriors got as close as 20-15 late in game three but Waverly quickly retook the momentum on key blocks by Plouzek and Grosshans.
Neujahr said that having a variety of players able to contribute made the difference.
“We do have a lot of weapons,” Neujahr said. “We’re really fortunate that we havea lot of people that are really talented.”
After the win, Neujahr was pleased with the performance but was mindful of the long season ahead.
“This is just one of many matches we’re going to play this year. This was a tremendous win for us because Lincoln Lutheran is going to win a lot of games this year,” she said.