LINCOLN — As friends, family, coaches and fans prepared for the Class C2 volleyball final here at Pinnacle Bank Arena on Saturday afternoon, some were reveling in the accomplishment of Norfolk Catholic and Lutheran High Northeast representing the city in the championship match.
It marked the fourth time the teams met this season, with the Eagles winning the first three matches.
The teams met in a regular-season matchup back on Sept. 8 at Norfolk Catholic, which Lutheran High won 3-1 in the best-of-five sets match.
Lutheran High also beat the Knights in a triangular at NC along with Crofton 2-1 and most recently in the finals of the Class C2-6 subdistrict finals 3-1 a little over a week ago.
"Its great for Norfolk and these two schools," Knight coach Michaela Bellar said. "We bring out the best in each other. We know we're going to give each other our best shot, and you're going to have to play well to win."
And although the teams butt heads on the court, the players and coaches respect each other on and off the court, in fact many are friends and some are even teammates.
"Some play other sports together like soccer and softball," Bellar said. "Some even play club volleyball together."
The success of both programs does not go unnoticed away from Norfolk, either.
"They certainly set the bar pretty high in our area," Clarkson/Leigh coach Becky Schneider said. "You've got to get your team to play at their level night in and night out to make you better. They help make us all better."
Schneider would know, as her Patriots were locked in that same subdistrict and were bounced in the tournament by the Eagles.
Norfolk Catholic and Clarkson-Leigh found their way to state via a wild card to the district round and then each one its respective district match to advance to Lincoln.
All three teams remained playing on Saturday with the Patriots taking fourth after the Eagles sent them to the consolation round in the semifinals Friday.
One fan was not surprised the two Norfolk teams, just a couple of miles apart, were playing for the big hardware on Saturday.
"I predicted we both would end up here the first time we played each other this year," Tom Fennessy said.
Fennessy's daughter Mary plays for the Knights.
"Half of the seniors play soccer together," Fennessy said. "It's a great community and we're proud of all of the girls, but we do want to win."
Jeff Furst, the father of Lutheran High junior Mia Furst feels the competition makes everyone better.
"This is very cool to get to play each other — steel sharpens steel," Furst said. "There were a lot of other issues these girls faced throughout the season, but when we stepped on the court to play each other, we made each other better."
He went on to explain off the court is a different matter.
"We are friends and neighbors off the court," he said. "This has been a wonderful ride, and this match will be the final celebration."
Even students, who often take a less civil approach to cheering on their teams, respect the other school and realize what an accomplishment it is for the two to meet one last time in the final.
"I know quite a few players and a lot of friends over at Norfolk Catholic," said Lutheran High junior Mason Petersen. "It’s really awesone we are all here representing Norfolk and Northeast Nebraska, but we want to win."
"Oh, definitely," Bellar said. "We want to win."