With no seniors regularly on the floor, the Wynot Blue Devils took a couple of lumps early in the season. But a 14-match win streak — 11 of them in sweeps — has the squad back to state after a one-year hiatus.
Wynot (23-4) plays defending champion Exeter-Milligan (23-8) today (Thursday) at 3:30 p.m. to open the Nebraska State Class D2 Volleyball Tournament in Lincoln.
Though the team graduated just two seniors from a 20-8 team in 2017, there was still a bit of inexperience for head coach Tammy Wieseler’s squad to begin the season.
“We had a little bit of a rough start, a couple of obstacles,” she said. “We didn’t pass well at the beginning, so we had trouble running an offense.”
The Blue Devils went to work, spending extra time on passing drills. As a result, Wynot boasts seven players with over 100 digs — junior Noelle Wieseler (384), junior Katelyn Heine (300), sophomore Edyn Sudbeck (280), sophomore Emersyn Sudbeck (199), junior Shaelee Planer (177), junior Michaela Lange (176) and junior Kaitlyn Heimes (137) — and could end up with eight (junior Whitney Hochstein has 93).
Planer leads the defense at the net with 90 blocks, followed by Hochstein (74), Kaitlyn Heimes (42), Heine (27), freshman Karley Heimes (25) and Edyn Sudbeck (21).
“We’re still a pretty young team,” Planer said. “But we’ve been working our tails off.”
The Blue Devils boast five hitters with over 100 kills on the season: Planer (171), Karley Heimes (144), Edyn Sudbeck (144), Heine (136) and Hochstein (131). Kaitlyn Heimes has 73 kills.
“It really shows that we are a team,” Planer said of the balance. “We have a lot of depth. You can’t just stop one player.”
Twins Edyn (359 assists) and Emersyn (263 assists) run the offense from the setter position.
“We have talented athletes, and they have worked hard with our setters,” Coach Wieseler said. “Our setters do a good job of mixing up the offense.”
Heine leads the Wynot service attack with 51 ace serves. Planer (45), Lange (44), Emersyn Sudbeck (38), Kaitlyn Heimes (21) and Edyn Sudbeck (17) have also been effective servers.
Wynot plays an Exeter-Milligan team powered by two strong senior middles: Katherine White (437 kills, 239 digs, 58 ace serves, 36 blocks) and Kate Jansky (329 kills, 216 digs, 50 ace serves, 55 blocks). Junior Anna Sluka (345 assists, 215 digs, 63 ace serves) and freshman Emma Olsen (415 assists, 105 digs) share setting duties. Sophomore libero Jaiden Papik has a team-best 300 digs.
“(Exeter-Milligan head coach) Darci White is a great coach,” Coach Wieseler said. “They have some experience at state. It should be a really good matchup.”
For the Blue Devils to extend their stay in Lincoln, they need to do what has led them to 14 straight victories, Heine said.
“We need to be confident, be able to lean on each other, and we need to have fun,” she said, “and we will get things done.”
First-round matches in Class D2 will be played at Lincoln Southeast High School. Other first-round matches include top-seeded Ewing (29-2) against Falls City Sacred Heart (22-11) at 1:30 p.m., second-seeded Bruning-Davenport-Shickley (27-4) against Cody-Kilgore (25-5) at 5:30 p.m., and third-seeded Mullen (27-3) against Chambers-Wheeler Central (25-7) at 7:30 p.m.
All semifinals will be played Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena, with the Class D2 semifinals at 9 and 11 a.m. on the north court. All finals will be played Saturday at the Devaney Sports Center, with third place matches at Lincoln Northeast.
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