Coming up just short

Millard West volleyball drops state title game


Photo Courtesy of Millard West Activities Twitter

The Millard West Varsity Volleyball team came up just short of capturing the state title. Although they came up just short their season was nothing short of spectacular and many memories were made throughout it. “I am so grateful to have the season we did as a senior, this year by far was my favorite year out of my four years being on varsity,” senior Ella Hazen said. “All 12 of us girls bonded like no other and we always had the best time with each other on and off the court. Sad to say that it is over but I am super proud of each and every girl on the team. We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without every player.”

Joseph Ebmeier, Staff Reporter

With a thrilling three set sweep at home against the Millard North Mustangs, the Millard West Varsity Volleyball team was ready to take on the State Tournament for the tenth straight year.

The Wildcats went into the tournament as the second seed only behind undefeated Papillion La-Vista South. Millard West’s first round matchup was against the Papillion La-Vista Monarchs who were the seventh seed going into the tournament. The first set went back and forth with neither team stretching out to a big lead; however, the Wildcats were able to score the final few points to win the set 25-23. The second set started the same as the first with the teams battling tough and the score remaining close, but as the set reached the halfway point, Millard West was able to pull away and go up 2-0 with a 25-17 win. The Wildcats had all the momentum entering the third set and it showed. The team was able to pull away right from the beginning and win the third set 25-11, completing the sweep and sending Millard West to the semifinals.

“After defeating Papio we wanted to set out to finish what we started in 2020,” head coach Joe Wessel said. “A semi-final appearance is an honor, but we knew how close we were to reaching the finals last year. Our mentality was one point, one set, one game at a time.”

The Wildcat’s semifinal round matchup was the sixth-seeded Omaha Westside who pulled off a major upset against Lincoln Southwest in a match that went all five sets. Millard West picked up where they left off and dominated the first set, winning it 25-15, but Westside flipped the script and controlled a set of their own in set two where they bested the Wildcats 25-16. Millard West also fell behind early in the third set, yet halfway through they were able to get back some momentum and pull away to win 25-20. The Wildcats had a chance to send themselves to the state championship in set four, but Westside wasn’t done yet and they pulled away from Millard West to win the set 25-18, which sent the match to a winner take all fifth set. With the season on the line for both teams, the fifth set featured thrilling back-and-forth action. Millard West scored the final few points to win the set 15-12 and advance to the State Championship.

“Beating Westside in the semi finals is definitely one of the biggest moments in my volleyball career,” senior Ella Hazen said. “I actually liked how the game was so intense back and forth. We were the second Millard West team to make it to the championship game in school history. It is such an honor to be a part of something so special and winning the semi final game.”

As the Wildcats walked into the Bob Devaney Sports Center, the number one team in the state and third ranked team in the nation was waiting to face off against them. Papillion La-Vista South entered the state championship game with a perfect 39-0 record and had bested Millard West in each of their three matchups earlier in the season. Throughout the first set, Papillion South maintained a slight lead over the Wildcats until about halfway through when the Titans caught fire and stormed away from the Wildcats to win the first set 25-15. The second started the same as the first, and the Wildcats trailed by a slim margin. Again, midway through the set Papillion South gained momentum and pulled away from Millard West to take the second set 25-14. With all the momentum on their side, the Titans entered the third set 25 points away from a state championship. The Wildcats tried hard to send the game to a fourth set but just could not keep pace with Papillion and dropped the third set.

“In our preparation for the championship we knew we would have to play flawless to upend the undefeated Titans,” Wessel said. “We had a game plan and just couldn’t find a way to execute it.  But we are happy that we were able to play at such a high level all season and are proud of the accomplishments this team had this year.”

Although the Wildcats could not come away with a state championship, it does not take away from the successful season they had. The Wildcats finished the season with a record of 28-7, including a District Championship and state title game appearance. The roster will look quite a bit different for the Wildcats next year as they will be without six seniors including Sadie Millard who led the team in kills as well as Hazen who led the team in digs. Although the team will be losing some star players, they will work hard during the offseason to capture a state championship next year.