LINCOLN — Chambers/Wheeler Central had an 8-1 lead in the fifth set but could not hold on as the Renegades had to settle for second place in Class D2 after falling in the championship match to Diller-Odell on Saturday morning at Pinnacle Bank Arena, 26-24, 25-20, 14-25, 22-25, 16-14.
CWC lost the first two sets but battled back to take the next two and led 7-0 to start the fifth, but it was not to be.
"I thought we had them," Renegade coach Diane Kasselder said. "After we lost the second set, we just kind of came together and renewed why we were down here. It's a lot more than volleyball. These kids have been together a long time. We just looked each other in the eye and said, 'Let's do our jobs. Put everything else aside.' "
CWC jumped out to leads in all five sets, including 7-0 in the first. But Diller-Odell, the defending Class D1 state champion, roared back behind its sophomore sensation, Karli Heidemann.
Kasselder said the game plan was to keep the ball away from Heidemann as much as possible by getting in the first swing on every point. "I wanted to be more aggressive than they were, and that's tough when she's on the other side of the net. Our strategy was not to worry so much about them, just worry about doing our things and swing at every ball we can swing at."
But it was CWC errors that told the story in the first set as much as anything.
Leading 16-10, the Renegades committed five straight errors to have their lead cut to one.
From that point on, neither team led by more than two and there were seven ties. Diller-Odell had set point at 24-22, but a Rachel Dierks kill and Griffin attack error tied it at 24.
Unfortunately for the Renegades, Diller-Odell scored the next two points on kills by Ava Lovitt and Madelyn Meyerle to take the first set 26-24.
"I think we started off a little slower than we would have liked," CWC setter Ryann Haburchak said. "We weren't playing like ourselves."
Diller-Odell's Addison Heidemann pulled off a setter dump to give her team a 9-8 lead in the second set and the Griffins never trailed after that on the way to a 25-20 win and 2 sets to none advantage.
"We got down two sets early, and all eight of us are seniors playing out there and we're just like, 'Give it all we got!' so we battled back," CWC's Morgan Ramsey said.
The Renegades turned the tables in set three. They led by as many as 14 and closed the stanza with a Tessa Metschke rocket.
"We had nothing to lose at that point. They thought they had already won it, and we weren't going to give it to them that easy," Haburchak said.
CWC looked to be on the way to closing out the fourth set with a match point while leading 24-18, but the Griffins used two kills and two blocks to score the next four points before Michelle Koenig finished it off with a kill to win the set 25-22 and tie the match at two sets apiece.
"We tried to just take it down to what we do and quit worrying about their side of the court," Kasselder said. "All we have to do is pass and serve and the rest will come into play."
The Renegades came out of the gates swinging in the fifth, taking leads of 7-0 and 8-1 behind multiple kills from Ramsey and Koenig. But Diller-Odell is ranked No. 1 for a reason and the Griffins came storming back.
The southeast Nebraskans went on a 13-2 run. A Karli Heidemann kill gave the Griffins their first lead of the set at 11-10.
Diller-Odell extended the advantage to a match point at 14-10, but the courageous Renegades would not back down.
I said, 'Attack the ball, just keep on attacking the ball,' " Ramsey said. "Coach just kept reminding us, stay focused, stay in the moment, one play at a time, forget our errors and keep swinging away."
Back-to-back kills by Metschke made it 14-12 and two Griffin errors tied it at 14, but back-to-back kills by Lovitt provided Diller-Odell the winning margin.
"I think we just got ahead of ourselves in the fifth set," Kasselder said. "I think if we would have stayed a little more calm, we would have had them. I have every confidence we could have won that game."
"We had a couple of mistakes we could have probably cleaned up, but sometimes the ball just doesn't bounce your way. That's how it went," Ramsey said.
It was the third consecutive year an area team has lost the D2 final in five-set, heartbreaking fashion. Ewing in 2018 and Humphrey St. Francis last year both settled for silver medals after falling to teams from Bruning-Davenport/Shickley.
DILLER-ODELL DEFEATS CHAMBERS/WHEELER CENTRAL 26-24, 25-20, 14-25, 22-25, 16-14
— CHAMBERS/WHEELER CENTRAL (33-2): Emma Jonseth 11k, 2d; Michelle Koenig 7k, 1s, 2a, 15d; Ryann Haburchak 2k, 45s, 7d; Morgan Ramsey 18k, 1s, 3a, 14d 2b; MaKenna Pelster 1k, 1s, 3a, 7d; Rachel Dierks 6k, 2s, 2d; Alexis Butterfield 2s, 4d; Tessa Metschke 17k, 3s, 19d.
— DILLER-ODELL (33-1): Madelyn Meyerle 5k, 1s, 2a, 9d; Addison Heidemann 3k, 35s, 2a, 13d; Ava Lovitt 5k, 2s, 11d; Lilly Swanson 3k, 2d, 1b; Madeline Swanson 5d; Elecea Saathoff 1k, 1s, 1a, 12d; Karli Heidemann 29k, 3s, 1a, 20d.