The area's top senior volleyball players dressed in their high school uniforms one last time for the 22nd annual Northeast Nebraska All-Star volleyball match on Saturday at Northeast Community College's Cox Activities Center.
Six-footers Maggie Brahmer of Pierce and Erin Prusa of Howells-Dodge combined for 28 kills in leading the Light team to a 25-18, 25-21, 25-15, 25-27 victory over the Dark team.
“We had some strong middles and I think that set us apart,” Light coach Tracy Kuester-Burtwistle of Stanton said. “Both of our setters, Kaegan (Held of Clarkson/Leigh) and Bree (Burtwistle of Stanton) made some good decisions when things needed to happen and they utilized the whole front row.”
The Light team won the first three sets, which would normally end the contest, but the special all-star rules called for a minimum of four sets to be played and the Dark team was able to salvage the final one.
Along with Brahmer and Prusa, Stanton teammates Burtwistle and Jessie Brandl also had double-figure kill numbers for the Lights.
Kuester-Burwistle, who is Bree's mother, said in the short time her players had to practice together, they were able to connect. “I think our defense, we picked up a lot of balls and were able to make things happen and then when we needed a kill, we had some good hitters that were able to capitalize on that,” she said.
A couple of aspects reminded the several hundred spectators that the young women on the court were truly all-stars. The players showed great ability, especially on the defensive side, as dozens of plays that would normally have resulted in ace serves or ace blocks, were skillfully dug up.
In fact the two sides combined for just 12 ace blocks and three service aces during the entire match.
There were a lot of rallies going on, Brandl said. “That was the best part, all the rallies. It was just a really good match.”
Hartington Cedar Catholic and Dark team coach Denae Buss smiled when she talked about the talent on the floor. “I'd be like, 'Oh, there's that thing that girl does well.' ”
O'Neill's Briana Bauer kept the Dark team in contention early by recording eight kills in the first two sets.
The Light team jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first set as Brahmer and Stanton's Liz Christensen recorded two kills each. The Dark team was not able to cut the deficit to less than four for the rest of the way as the Lights won 25-18.
The Dark squad led early in the second set. A kill by Isabelle Harms of Hartington-Newcastle gave her team a 5-3 lead.
But it was short-lived. Kills by Matty Boning of Lutheran High Northeast and Brandl put the Lights on top 7-5. The Darks were able to tie it at 7 and 9-all, but a Prusa kill gave the Lights a 10-9 lead and they never trailed during the remainder of the set, which they won 25-21.
The Lights were in control during the third set as well. Hannah Kasik of Clarkson/Leigh had two kills and a service ace, and Brahmer added a pair of kills during a 5-1 run that gave their side a 13-7 advantage.
The victors scored the last five points of the set, highlighted by a Brandl rocket from the back row, en route to the 25-15 win.
The Dark team avoided the shutout in the fourth and final set. Hartington Cedar Catholic's Maddie Wieseler, who will join Burtwistle at Midland University this fall, had her best set of the afternoon with seven kills.
Brahmer's kill off the block gave the Lights a 25-24 lead. But the Darks took advantage of a pair of Light errors and a Wieseler kill to score the final three points for the 27-25 win.
“The girls had a lot of fun, you could see that,” Buss said. “I thought we dug a lot of good balls. We just got into little ruts sometimes, but we adjusted.”
Brahmer had a match-high 17 kills. “It's always a neat experience, playing with the best volleyball players in our area,” she said. “I learned a lot of things and made a lot of friends, so it was good.”
Area coaches named Bauer and Brandl the match's most valuable players.
NORTHEAST NEBRASKA ALL-STAR VOLLEYBALL MATCH
Light Team defeated Dark Team 25-18, 25-21, 25-15, 25-27
Light Team (Kills, Ace Blocks, Ace Serves): Josie Sanger, Crofton (0-0-0), Matty Boning, Lutheran High Northeast (3-1-0), Jessie Brandl, Stanton (10-1-1), Maggie Brahmer, Pierce (17-2-0), Bree Burtwistle, Stanton (11-2-0), Liz Christensen, Stanton (5-0-0), Kaegan Held, Clarkson/Leigh (0-0-1), Erin Prusa, Howells-Dodge (11-1-1), Hannah Kasik, Clarkson/Leigh (3-1-0).
Dark Team (Kills, Ace Blocks, Ace Serves): Isabelle Harms, Hartington-Newcastle (5-0-0), Miranda Summers, Ewing (2-0-0), Jordan Wegner, Wisner-Pilger (1-2-0), Jada Cattau, Hartington Cedar Catholic (2-1-0), Brianna Miller, Hartington Cedar Catholic (3-0-0), Jessi Brester, Howells-Dodge (7-0-0), Jaidyn Schindler, Ewing (0-0-0), Maddie Wieseler, Hartington Cedar Catholic (10-0-0), Brianna Bauer, O'Neill (8-0-0), Rachel Schlote, Battle Creek (5-1-0).