Ready, set, state

Varsity Volleyball season ends after competing in the state tournament

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Photo by Ben Mohorn

Millard West volleyball players waving to the crowd after their thrilling five set victory over Lincoln Pius. There were 500 tickets allowed for each team in the state tournament. “It really just added fuel to our fire,” junior Maddie Mactaggart said. “It was super exciting to hear the crowd go crazy when we scored a point and really helped keep the momentum going.”

Jonathan Willis, Striv Executive Producer

The Millard West Varsity Volleyball team wrapped up the 2020 season this past Friday in the NSAA Class A State Tournament. The Wildcats had a deep run this season, finishing with a record of 23-9 and losing in the semifinal round of the state tournament.

Millard West beat Grand Island in three sets in the first round of the Class A-5 Districts on October 27th. On the day after, they beat Marian in four sets to punch their ticket to Lincoln.This was the tenth consecutive year that the Cats had qualified for the state tournament, but they hadn’t made it past the second round since 2014. 

After qualifying for the state tournament, the team had exactly one week to prepare to play the number three team in the state, the Lincoln Pius X Thunderbolts. They were 23-4 in the regular season and had a lot of big hitters on the team including senior Alexis Markowski who had 294 kills and senior Kylen Sealock who had 274 kills. The Thunderbolts went into the game favored over the number six seed Wildcats. 

“We knew they were going to get their big kills, but mentally we just had to shake it off and kill the ball right back,” junior Maddie Mactaggart said. “Every game matters no matter where we are playing or how easy or challenging the team is.”

The first three sets between the Wildcats and the Thunderbolts were extremely competitive. Each of the first three sets were only won by two points. Pius took set one 26-24 and set three 26-24, however, after each of those sets the Wildcats were able to bounce back and get big set wins. 

“I think in the second set, after losing that first one, we got back into our rhythm and knew what worked and what didn’t work for us,” junior Sadie Millard said. “The energy from both the bench and the players on the court really helped in gaining momentum.” 

Millard West won in a close set 25-23 in the second and dominated in the fourth set 25-16 to force a set number five. The Wildcats had worn out the Thunderbolts at this point and dominated 15-6 in the fifth set, capped off by an electric kill by Millard to advance the Wildcats to the semifinal round. 

“Winning that game was such an emotional experience for me,” Millard said. “We came in as the underdog and the fact that we came out on top was a once in a lifetime experience.” 

The Wildcats got a day break before playing the number two ranked Papillion-La Vista South Titans in the semifinal round. The two teams had played twice in the regular season, both resulting in Titan wins. 

Papio South came out firing early in the first set. The first two sets between the Wildcats and the Titans were very close, but Papio South was able to prevail in both. There were two long rallies in the second half of both the first and second set that the Titans were able to get a point off of both times. Those long plays were able to give them a lot of the momentum and ultimately led to wins in the first and second set. 

“Losing those rallies is really a momentum killer,” Mactaggart said. “We fought as hard as we could but Papio South was just unstoppable on defense, and it was hard to get a ball down in general.” 

Papio South ended up sweeping the Wildcats in a 25-19 first set win, a 28-26 second set win  and a dominating 25-13 third set win. The Titans advanced to the state championship, where they would lose to Elkhorn South. Both players and coaches for the Wildcats are not hanging their heads, though. They were able to pull off the quarterfinal upset against Pius and had an all in all fantastic year. 

“We take pride in building a culture of hard work, discipline and family,” head coach Joe Wessel said. “Not only was this a successful season but one with so many added restrictions and regulations. Our seniors went above and beyond to show great leadership and set the tone and standard for future Wildcats.” 

Millard West has a lot to look forward to next year, with a lot of talented players returning including Millard, Mactaggart and many more. The Wildcats will definitely be back next year, in a good position for another deep postseason run.