GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Millard West looked the part of a top-ranked team Thursday in its opening match at the state volleyball tournament.
The No. 1 Wildcats swept eighth-seeded Grand Island 25-10, 25-16, 25-18 in a Class A first-round match at the Heartland Events Center. Millard West, seeking its first volleyball title, advances to a 9 a.m. semifinal Friday while the Islanders finish their season 22-14.
“I was pleased with the way we started the match,” Wildcats coach Erin Byrd said. “And when we got behind a little later, we kept our composure.”
Millard West (35-2) wasn't behind very often, and not at all in the first set. The Wildcats went on a 12-point run behind the strong serving of junior Kira Shapiro and rolled to a 15-point win.
The Islanders stayed close in the second set, but the Wildcats went on a late eight-point run to turn a 16-15 lead into a 24-15 advantage. The set ended when a serve by the Islanders went long.
Grand Island held the upper hand early in the third set, opening a 9-5 lead and prompting Byrd to call a timeout. Millard West battled back to get it tied at 11 and then took the lead for good at 14-13 on a rare kill by libero Emily Leichner, only her sixth of the season.
The Wildcats continued to pull away and ended the match on a kill by senior Alexis Anderson.
Anderson finished with 11 kills while senior Kamesha Young added nine.
“We played Grand Island before (two Millard West sweeps) so we knew what we had to do,” Young said. “It's just really exciting to be playing in the tournament.”
Byrd said the experience her squad gained at the state tourney last year helped Thursday. Millard West reached the semifinals in 2012 before losing to eventual state champion Papillion-La Vista South.
“A lot of our kids have been through this before,” she said. “I thought they were really focused for this match.”
The victory extended the Wildcats' win streak to 16.
Grand Island (22-14)......................10 16 18
Millard West (35-2).........................25 25 25
GI (kills-aces-blocks): Savana Peterson 1-0-0, Sierra Peterson 5-0-1, Sarah Splattstoesser 5-2-2, Ashton Riedy 5-1-0, Abby Crouch 3-0-1, Mackenzie Puckett 3-0-0, Madison Huismann 3-1-3, McKenzie Fyfe 1-0-0.
MW: Emily Leichner 1-0-0, Kamesha Young 9-2-1, Alexis Anderson 11-0-0, Sydney Yong 1-0-0, Cassidy Loberg 3-0-2, Kira Shapiro 6-3-1, Tiffany Wentworth 1-1-0.
Set assists: GI 21 (Fyfe 21); MW 26 (Wentworth 26).