Long-time volleyball veterans are back with new faces, all-time leaders embrace the field

Check out the All-Nebraska volleyball teams since 2015.

The school with the highest number of state volleyball appearances will return again when the four-day event kicks off Wednesday in Lincoln.

The new thing is the trainer.

Papillion-La Vista, who beat Elkhorn South in the A-3 circle final, will make this trip for the 37th time.

Former Papio player Priscilla (O’Dowd) Petersen will rule when the 27-9 Monarchs return for their 11th season in a row. She took over the program from John Svehl, who steered Papio to the state from 2019 to 2021.

Two teams behind Papio on this long-term chart will also make a return: Class A Omaha Marian and Class C-1 Grand Island Central Catholic will make their 34th trip to the state.

Marian returns after a three-year absence from first-year trainer Jake Moore. Former longtime coach Lincoln Pius X led his Crusaders to a score of 24-13 and upset Gretna in the A-6 constituency final.

This victory essentially eliminated Moore’s former team from the state tournament. Lightning was in line for the only A-class wild card, but when the dragons caught it, Pius lost.

Coach Sharon Zavala’s GICC crusaders have more state championships (10) than any returning team. He also has more victories leading all of the Nebraska coaches from 1148 in his 48th year.

The closest active coach to this is Sue Wewel of Fremont Bergan, who will also take her C-2 team back to state. Knights are 31-4, which gives Wewel 766 victories.

Moore is third on that active list with 729, while Kearney Catholic’s Kris Conner, who takes his C-1 Stars back to state, has 721 wins to his credit.

All six state champions from 2021 will return, though at least two new teams will be crowned. Last year’s winning titles were Papillion-La Vista South (Grade A), Omaha Skutt (B), Lincoln Lutheran (C-1), Oakland-Craig (C-2), Howells-Dodge (D-1) and Falls City Sacred Heart (D-2).

Lincoln Lutheran is now competing in the C-2, so a new champion is guaranteed in the C-1. North Bend (30-1) ranks first in their quest to win their first volleyball title with five girls’ basketball championships.

There will also be a new champion in D-1 as Howells-Dodge competes in D-2. Top Catholic Norfolk will also be claiming his first D-1 title on his 16th journey.

Another impressive streak belongs to the Grand Island Northwest, which upset York in the neighborhood game, extending its state record in subsequent appearances to 22. The next closest active streak belongs to the A Class Millard West, making its twelfth consecutive trip.

The Class C-1 Douglas County West is the only team to appear in the tournament for the first time. The Falcons defeated Columbus Lakeview in Saturday’s final C1-8 circle final, earning longtime coach Bob Wald a seat.

The first round in A, B and C-1 classes will take place on Wednesday and the second round in the remaining three classes will be held on Thursday. The semi-finals in all classes will take place on the Friday before the tournament moves from Pinnacle Bank Arena to Devaney Center for Saturday’s six finals.

Matches for third place in every class except A and B will take place on Saturday in Lincoln North Star.


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