Archrivals Norfolk Catholic and Battle Creek sit first and second in the Class C ratings chart for Northeast and North Central Nebraska this week, but as of yet, the Knights and Bravettes have not faced each other. That changes Thursday when the two sides square off at the Norfolk Catholic Activities Center.
Battle Creek coach Cody Wintz said he's pleased with the way his 22-2 team has played so far this season. "We have a couple of losses that I think if we play those teams (Beatrice and Fremont Bergan) 10 times, we'd win the majority of the matches, but we just didn't seem to have our A game in those matches," he said.
With three quarters of the season in the rearview mirror, Wintz called the next three weeks crunch time. "We're gearing up for some more competitive games with our conference teams," he said. "We're looking forward to playing (Norfolk Catholic and No. 4 Wayne)."
By the end of this month, Norfolk Catholic, Battle Creek and Wayne are sure to be quite familiar with one another. The Blue Devils defeated the Knights earlier this season. The Knights and Bravettes play Thursday and Battle Creek is at Wayne next Thursday. All three will play in the Mid-State Conference tournament, which begins Oct. 21, and all three are in the C1-7 subdistrict, which starts Oct. 28.
"Norfolk Catholic's real big." Wintz said. "Wayne's probably not as big as most teams that we'll play but are scrappy on defense and have got a very experienced group that's played a lot of youth together and they have that (Lauren) Pick girl that has caused us a lot of problems in her first two years."
Wintz said nine girls on the Battle Creek roster get the majority of the playing time and that he likes the mix of upperclassmen and younger kids. "We have five seniors. We have two or three juniors that play quite a bit and then we have a couple of sophomores," he said.
The outside hitters are University of Ohio recruit Tria McLean and Makenna Taake, the state long jump champion. "We try to get Tria the ball quite a bit, and Makenna is doing a great job in, really, her first year of varsity action."
McLean doubles as a setter when she's in the back row. Sophomore Kaitlyn Pochop is the other setter in the 6-2 system. "It's her first year on varsity," Wintz said. "Early on, she was kind of nervous, playing with some upperclassmen. But watching her gel with the older group has been fun, and she's really done a great job for us and has embraced that roll."
Senior Riley Seifert and junior BriAnna Zohner fill the middle for the Bravettes. "They can both terminate the ball, they play all the way around for us and they're both great athletes," Wintz said.
Two other great athletes play right side, including junior Renee Brummels, the state triple jump champion. "She can put up a really big block," Wintz said. "She's real tall and lanky, so we've got her out there to take care of the opposing team's outside hitter.
“And then Maddie Taake is our other right side, a lefty, and she's really been doing some nice things for us later on in the year."
Wintz called his team's libero a special player. "That's Paytyn Taake, she's just a sophomore. She gets all over the floor and cleans up a lot of balls for us, just kind of comes out of nowhere and covers a lot of square footage on the court."
Defensive specialist, senior Lydia Roskeland, also sees plenty of action for the purple and gold in the middle-back position.
Incidentally, all three Taakes on the Battle Creek team are sisters; seniors Maddie and Makenna are twins.
As the season winds down, Wintz said the team will spend a lot of time working on limiting the number of hitting errors. "We're much more aggressive this year, which is great, we're not tipping as much," he said. "But that leads to more hitting errors, which as a coach kind of frustrates you, but you also have to be a little bit lenient, because you want the girls to get up there and swing and there's going to be times when they hit it 2 feet off the back or 6 inches off to the sideline."
The Class C ratings chart remains unchanged from last week. No. 1 Norfolk Catholic was impressive in winning the Columbus Classic, defeating two Class B teams — Beatrice and Hastings — as well as 16-4 Columbus Lakeview.
After the Knights play Battle Creek on Thursday, they could be facing 21-0 St. Paul in the semifinals of the Wisner-Pilger October Classic on Saturday.
Second-ranked Battle Creek had a 3-0 week, but things are about to get a lot more difficult for the Bravettes in the season's final weeks.
No. 3 Lutheran High Northeast and No. 4 Wayne both finished the week unbeaten while No. 5 Ponca suffered just one loss to South Dakota juggernaut 15-1 Dakota Valley, which would be a Class B school in Nebraska.
Sixth-ranked Summerland played just one match in the last week — a straight-sets victory over North Central. North Bend Central, the No. 7 team, fell to 17-5 Malcolm, and No. 8 Oakland-Craig finished the week 5-1, with the lone loss coming at the hands of Class D No. 1 Chambers/Wheeler Central. More on the Renegades later.
Clarkson/Leigh, O'Neill and Stanton lead the honorably mentioned along with Boyd County, Howells-Dodge, Logan View/Scribner-Snyder and Wisner-Pilger
While the Class C chart remained the same, the Class D ladder had a major shakeup. Previous No. 2 Chambers/Wheeler Central has taken over the top spot from Wynot. The Blue Devils had held the No. 1 ranking from the preseason all the way up to last week.
The Renegades are coming off back-to-back Saturday tournament titles in Wisner and Clarkson, during which they played and defeated four Class C teams, as well as this week's Class D No. 2, Humphrey St. Francis, and Class D No. 3, Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family.
St. Francis has a victory over Wayne on its résumé and finished the past week with a 4-0 record, including a straight-sets victory over five-time defending Goldenrod Conference champion Nebraska Christian.
Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family moves from fifth to third despite the loss to CWC. The Bulldogs also defeated Omaha Concordia in straight sets. That's the same Omaha Concordia that gave previously unbeaten Wynot its first loss of the season. The Blue Devils are fourth this week.
Hartington Cedar Catholic is fifth. The Trojans' 12-9 record is deceiving as they play the majority of their matches against Class C1 and C2 competition.
Neligh-Oakdale remains sixth despite a loss on the road to Pender. Winside moves up a notch to seventh after a 4-0 week, and Hartington-Newcastle enters the chart for the first time this year. The 11-6 Wildcats are at No. 8.
After a one-week stay, previously No. 7 Stuart is off the chart and heads the honorably mentioned after losing to both North Central and Ainsworth in a triangular.
Joining the Broncos on the outside, looking in, are Elkhorn Valley, Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, Omaha Nation and Osmond.