GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — After winning its first title last year, Kearney Catholic will go for two in a row Saturday in the Class C-1 state volleyball tournament final.
The Stars outlasted Ogallala 25-18, 25-19, 12-25, 26-24 in semifinal action Friday at the Heartland Events Center to advance to Saturday's 4:30 p.m. final. Kearney Catholic capped an unbeaten season last year, capturing the championship in its 14th trip to state.
“We expected a battle today and we got it,” Stars coach Kris Conner said. “It's different being the underdog this year but I think our team has kind of embraced that.”
Sixth seed Kearney Catholic ousted third seed Chadron on Thursday before defeating the second-seeded Indians. But Ogallala put up a battle and came very close to forcing a fifth set.
“They've got the hardest hitting middles we've seen this year,” Conner said. “I'm just really happy that we didn't go to that fifth set.”
After the Stars had captured the first two sets, Ogallala came storming back to grab the third 25-12.
“The wheels really fell off for us in that third set,” Conner said. “Just about everything went wrong, but we were able to regroup after that.”
Ogallala jumped to a 5-1 advantage in the fourth set and held the lead until the Stars finally got it tied at 18 on a kill by freshman Anna Squiers. The match was later tied at 20, 23 and 24 before Kearney Catholic won the final two points — one coming on a kill by Callie Opbroek and match point coming when an Ogallala shot went wide.
Three players for Kearney Catholic — Shayla Conner, Opbroek and Paige Hervert — had 10 kills each. Conner, the coach's daughter, also had 32 assists.
Kendall Schroer led Ogallala with 22 kills and six blocks while Sid Mell added 16 kills and five blocks.
Kris Conner said it felt good to be heading back to the final.
“We struggled in the middle of the season and I didn't know if it would be possible,” she said. “It's a credit to the girls' character that we made it back.”
Ogallala will play in a consolation match Saturday at 10 a.m. at Grand Island High.
Ogallala (32-7)................................18 19 25 24
Kearney Catholic (26-8).................25 25 12 26
O (kills-aces-blocks): Sophia Arensdorf 2-0-0, Kendall Schroer 22-0-6, Jensen Geisert 3-2-0, Demi Anderson 0-2-0, Sid Mell 16-1-5, Jenna Paloucek 1-0-0, Shelby Welsh 2-0-1.
KC: Kylie Thiele 3-0-2, Morgan Stute 2-0-0, Whitney Colling 0-1-0, Shayla Conner 10-0-1, Madison Squiers 1-0-0, Courtney Shundoff 5-0-0, Callie Opbroek 10-0-1, Anna Squiers 6-0-2, Allie Prososki 0-1-0, Paige Hervert 10-0-1.
Set assists: O 44 (Paloucek 40, Arensdorf 2, Geisert 1, Anderson 1); KC 32 (Conner 32).