Norfolk Catholic and Chambers/Wheeler Central maintained their solid holds atop the Class C and D ratings charts over the past week for high school volleyball teams in Northeast and North Central Nebraska.
The season is coming into the home stretch as most of the teams in the Daily News’ coverage area are preparing for their conference tournaments followed by subdistrict and district action about a week later.
Area volleyball teams compete in seven conferences, all of which will stage their league tournaments in the next week. Here's a preview of each.
EAST HUSKER (Oct. 17 and 19)
Of all the conferences in Northeast and North Central Nebraska, the East Husker is - by far the most wide-open. No fewer than eight of the league's 14 teams have realistic shots at the title.
Unlike last year, when Stanton and Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family clearly played at a level or two above everyone else, no East Husker team has separated itself from the pack, which could make for an exciting league tourney.
North Bend Central (14-7) is the top seed. The Tigers lost in five sets on Tuesday to Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur (15-11) and could face the eighth-seeded Wolverines again, in the quarterfinals on Thursday in North Bend.
On the same side of the bracket, another quarterfinal showdown is likely in Humphrey between the No. 4 and 5 seeds, Class D No. 2 Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family (16-7) and Class C No. 7 Oakland-Craig (18-8).
The bottom half of the bracket looks to be equally intriguing. Third-seed Stanton (14-10) and sixth-seeded Clarkson/Leigh (14-11) will likely meet on Thursday in Stanton. Meanwhile, in Wisner, the No. 2 seeded Gators will likely face Howells-Dodge (15-9) in the quarterfinals.
The semifinals and finals are set for Saturday at Pender.
GOLDENROD (Oct. 17 and 19)
Two area teams — Class D No. 3 Humphrey St. Francis and St. Edward — play in the 11-team league made up primarily of central Nebraska schools.
St. Francis is the No. 3 seed and looks to dethrone five-time defending champion and top-seed Nebraska Christian. The Flyers have confidence after sweeping the Eagles in a triangular earlier this month in Humphrey.
The action starts Thursday on the home courts of the top four seeds with the semifinals and finals set for Saturday at Cedar Rapids, where St. Francis will likely be paired with second-seeded Central Valley (21-4). The two sides are scheduled for a regular-season match next week but, as of yet, have not faced each other.
The other semi will likely involve Nebraska Christian (17-4) and either Fullerton (14-7) or Burwell (13-7).
LEWIS AND CLARK (Oct. 19, 21 and 22)
Two teams seem to have the inside track at claiming championship honors in the 16-team league: Class D No. 5 Wyont and Class C No. 5 Ponca — the top-two seeds. The Blue Devils swept the Indians in a triangular earlier this month in Ponca.
Those two along with the third and fourth seeds — Class D No. 6 Winside and Laurel-Concord-Coleridge — have Saturday off while the other 12 teams are divided into four three-team round-robin pods.
The four winners then move onto the quarterfinals set for Monday at Randolph and Homer. Laurel will host the third-place and championship matches on Tuesday.
MID-STATE (Oct. 21, 22 and 24)
Class C No. 1 Norfolk Catholic, No. 3 Wayne and No. 4 Battle Creek look to be the cream of the crop in this nine-school league. Those three are all in the same subdistrict as well.
The bracket will be drawn up following Thursday night's matches. The tournament is set for Monday, Tuesday and Thursday at Pierce and Battle Creek.
NIOBRARA VALLEY (Oct. 21, 22 and 25)
Class D No. 1 Chambers/Wheeler Central and Class C No. 6 Summerland appear to be on a collision course. The Renegades and Bobcats are the top two seeds, and Summerland gave CWC one of its only two losses.
That was during the first week of the season when the Renegades started the year 0-2. They've won 24 straight since then.
The opening round is set for Monday at the homes of the top four seeds. The semifinals are Tuesday, with the consolation and finals Friday at Elkhorn Valley.
HEARTLAND ATHLETIC (Oct. 21, 22 and 24)
As the No. 6 seed, Norfolk (14-16) will have to play its way into its conference tournament's quarterfinals. The silver lining around that cloud is that the Panthers will have that play-in match at home.
Norfolk hosts No. 11 seed Lincoln Northeast on Monday at 6 p.m. A Panthers' victory would earn them a matchup with third-seed Lincoln Southeast on Tuesday at Lincoln Southwest. Semifinals are also on Tuesday with the consolation and championship set for Thursday.
SOUTHWEST (Oct. 25)
Two area teams, Valentine (11-10) and Ainsworth (8-14), are part of this eight-school league. The conference tournament, which has yet to be seeded, will be played a week from Friday in Gothenburg. Broken Bow (23-2) looks to be the clear favorite.
Norfolk teams hold the top two spots in this week's Class C chart. Norfolk Catholic is still No. 1 after recording a pair of impressive sweeps over No. 4 Battle Creek and Wahoo Neumann.
On Saturday, the Knights did fall to 27-0 St. Paul in the semifinals of the Wisner-Pilger October Classic. St. Paul is not only undefeated, the Wildcats have yet to drop a set this season.
Lutheran High Northeast moves up one notch to No. 2 after three big wins over Wisner-Pilger, No. 8 Guardian Angels Central Catholic and Class C1 Columbus Lakeview.
Wayne is also up one spot to No. 3 after a convincing victory over Crofton, and Battle Creek drops from second to fourth. The Bravettes bounced back from the Norfolk Catholic loss with a four-set victory on Tuesday over O'Neill.
Ponca stays in the fifth spot after wins over Class D No. 4 Hartington Cedar Catholic and Vermillion, South Dakota, while Summerland remains sixth. The Bobcats struggled to beat a pair of Class D teams — Neligh-Oakdale and Elkhorn Valley — both in five sets.
Oakland-Craig moves from eighth to seventh after a 2-1 week and Guardian Angels Central Catholic enters at No. 8. The Bluejays took Lutheran High to three sets in a triangular and also recorded victories over Wisner-Pilger and Pierce.
North Bend Central drops out of the ratings after a loss to Bancroft-Rosalie/Lyons-Decatur but heads the list of honorably mentioned, which also includes BRLD, Clarkson/Leigh, Howells-Dodge, Wisner-Pilger, O'Neill, Stanton and Wakefield/Allen.
Chambers/Wheeler Central is the easy choice as the No. 1 team in Class D. In fact, the Renegades have two victories over No. 2 Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family.
The Bulldogs move to the second spot from No. 3 after a 3-0 week. Both Humphrey St. Francis and Hartington Cedar Catholic also move up one spot to third and fourth after 1-1 weeks.
Wynot moves down a notch from No. 4 to No. 5 after losses to Neligh-Oakdale and Douglas County West.
Winside continues to roll. The Wildcats are sixth following a 4-0 week that included wins over Laurel-Concord-Coleridge and Hartington-Newcastle.
Neligh-Oakdale falls from sixth to seventh. The Warriors picked up a huge win on Saturday by defeating Wynot but then lost on Tuesday to 12-13 Elgin Public/Pope John.
Hartington-Newcastle holds steady in the eighth spot. The Wildcats finished the week with a 4-2 mark that included a split with Laurel-Concord-Coleridge, which heads the list of the honorably mentioned.
Joining the Bears with that distinction are Elkhorn Valley, Elgin Public/Pope John and Stuart.