Published Monday, October 28, 2013 at 10:27 pm / Updated at 11:48 pm
Patterson: Thunderbirds making noise at right time

During the course of the volleyball season, a coach might point to one match as being something more.

Bellevue West coach Sara Bayer is hoping a dramatic road win over Millard North last week is just that match.

The Thunderbirds lost the first two sets against the then-No. 2 Mustangs but rallied to win the match in five. It’s the kind of victory that can mean everything to a young team that is seeking to finish strong down the stretch.

“I think we’re definitely going in the right direction,” Bayer said. “The win over Millard North was a huge confidence builder for us.”

That victory showed once again the parity that is evident in Class A. It was certainly the biggest win of the season for Bellevue West (16-17), which slips into the ratings this week at No. 10.

Bayer, in her second season as head coach, is trying to build a program in the shadow of the Thunderbirds’ storied past. Bellevue West won 12 state titles from 1989 to 2006.

The Thunderbirds have not been back to state since capturing that most recent championship seven years ago, though Bayer said she knows progress is being made. That started with a tougher schedule this year designed to prepare her team for the postseason.

“We had a better record last year but it wasn’t against competition that was going to have us ready for districts,” she said. “It was very obvious to me that was the first step we needed to take.”

The Thunderbirds have competed in some of the toughest invitationals this fall, a major factor in those losses. But there have been bright spots, including last week’s performance against the Mustangs.

Bellevue West lost the first set 25-23 and dropped the second 25-14, but the Thunderbirds came storming back. They won the third set 25-18, the fourth 25-22 and the fifth 15-12.

“When we got to that fifth set, I just sensed that it was one of those moments that we’d been building up for all season,” Bayer said. “Our girls wanted it bad, and I wanted it so bad for them.”

Leading the Bellevue West attack is junior Sage Meyer, who has a team-leading 312 kills. University of South Dakota basketball recruit Kate Liveringhouse has 222 kills while Katie Imig, the team’s libero, has led the team in digs for three years.

“If there’s one other thing that’s driving us this season, it’s our team chemistry,” Bayer said. “Everybody has to be on the same page to accomplish a goal, and I see that from this group.”

The Thunderbirds will compete in the Metro Conference tournament this week before heading into next week’s district tournament. That’s when Bayer will see exactly how her plan to toughen up the team plays out.

“It’s stunning to see those volleyball banners in our gym,” she said. “I’m not sure if anyone will ever be able to duplicate that success, but I do know our program is moving in the right direction.”

Ratings update: Class B No. 1 Grand Island Northwest remains the overall ratings leader, boosting its record to 32-0 with a road win last week over York. The 32-0 Vikings have a test Tuesday when second-ranked Lincoln Pius X (30-4) visits for a 6:30 p.m. match.

Millard West (A), Columbus Scotus (C-1), Hastings St. Cecilia (C-2), O’Neill St. Mary’s (D-1) and Bertrand (D-2) all remain atop their respective classes.

A quick word about D-2 Bertrand, one of only two unbeaten teams left in the state: The Vikings went 6-0 last week, defeating two Class C-2 teams and a pair of ranked teams from D-1.

Metro Conference tournament: The three-day Metro tourney began Monday and will continue Wednesday and Thursday.

The quarterfinals and semifinals will be played Wednesday at Papillion-La Vista, with the best-of-five championship match scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m. at Papio.

Halloween ... boo!: That Metro tourney final will be played on Halloween, which comes as a disappointment. It seems the tourney could have been scheduled Monday through Wednesday, leaving Thursday open for families to enjoy that night.

Yes, I am judging this as the parent of a trick-or-treater. But it would be nice to see schools try to avoid Halloween whenever possible, for the sake of the kids. Same goes for the football playoffs.

Statistics needed: Coaches of teams from Class A, Class B and the Omaha area are asked to submit updated statistics by Wednesday. They may be faxed (402-444-1238), emailed to or sent to the MaxPreps website.

Top matches this week:

Class A—Tuesday: Lincoln Southeast at Lincoln North Star, 6:30; North Platte at Grand Island, 7. Wednesday, Thursday: Metro Conference tournament at Papillion-La Vista. Saturday: Millard West and Lincoln North Star at Lincoln Northeast triangular.

Class B—Tuesday: Columbus Scotus at Omaha Skutt, 6:30; Lincoln Pius X at Grand Island Northwest, 6:30. Thursday: Waverly and Lincoln Pius at Gretna triangular, 5; Holdrege at Aurora triangular, 5; Elkhorn and Lincoln East at Fremont triangular, 5; Norris at Beatrice triangular, 5. Saturday: River Cities Conference tournament at Omaha Roncalli, 9 a.m.

Class C-1—Tuesday: Hastings St. Cecilia at St. Paul triangular. Friday: Omaha Concordia at Norfolk Lutheran, Overton at Minden.

Class C-2—Tuesday: Shelby/Rising City at Exeter-Milligan. Friday: Southern Nebraska Conference final at Milford, Mid State Conference final at Battle Creek.

Class D-1—Tuesday: Ansley/Litchfield and Brady at Sandhills/Thedford triangular, Paxton at North Platte St. Patrick’s. Friday: Niobrara Valley Conference final at O’Neill, Pioneer Conference final at Pawnee City, Lewis and Clark Conference final (site TBA).

Class D-2—Tuesday: Giltner tournament, Leyton tournament.

Contact the writer: Mike Patterson    |   402-444-1350    |  

Mike covers high school sports, primarily volleyball in the fall, girls basketball in the winter and baseball in the spring and summer.

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