GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Gretna's first-ever victory at the state volleyball tournament came in dramatic fashion Thursday night against Omaha Gross.
The Dragons grabbed an early lead in the match and was able to close it out in four sets, winning 25-20, 26-24, 12-25, 27-25 at the Heartland Events Center. Gretna (25-8) advances to a 4 p.m. semifinal Friday against Sidney while the Cougars end the season at 30-6.
“I told our girls that winning is hard, losing is easy,'' Dragons coach Mike Brandon said. “We had to really dig down deep tonight.''
The match came down to six dramatic points after Gretna tied it at 23 on a kill by Natalie Mickelson. A Gretna net violation gave Gross a chance to close the set, but a shot by the Cougars' Joelle Overkamp went long to tie it at 24.
A kill by Shelby Mlynczak gave Gross another set point, but a block by Gretna's Madison Sutton that landed just inside the end line once again tied it at 25.
That's when freshman Halie McArdle came up big for the Dragons. Her deep kill was ruled in -- Gross coach Kelly Gjoca hopped off the bench to question it -- and McArdle then ended the match with a kill that caromed off the Cougars block near the net.
“She's come up with some clutch kills for us,'' Brandon said. “And those last two were huge.''
Gretna, winless in six previous trips to state, captured the first set 25-20 and then held off the Cougars late in the second set to win 26-24. Gross steamrolled the Dragons 25-12 in the third set, which led to a chat between Brandon and his team.
“I told them that we had taken a breather and that it was time to get back after it,'' he said. “We had to treat that fourth game like it was the fifth, because I really wanted to finish it there.''
The Dragons led most of the fourth set but Gross finally got it tied at 18 when a shot by Rian Kirby went wide. The match was close the rest of the way, but seventh-seeded Gretna managed to prevail to send the second-seeded Cougars home.
McArdle paced the Dragons with 17 kills while Mickelson had 12 and Sara Rahmanzai 10. Chandelle Davidson added 40 assists.
Gross was led by Alex Opperman, who had 19 kills. Mlynczak had 14 kills and setter Ellie Targy finished with 38 assists.
Omaha Gross (30-6).........................20 24 25 25
Gretna (25-8)....................................25 26 12 27
OG (kills-aces-blocks): Shelby Mlynczak 14-0-1, Tahlyr Banks 5-1-0, Joelle Overkamp 7-0-2, Alex Opperman 19-1-1, Julie Olechoski 2-2-0, Lynsey Matulka 1-1-1, Kristyn Huelskamp 0-1-0, Ellie Targy 1-1-2, Lauren Parr 3-0-2.
G: Chandelle Davidson 1-0-0, Madison Sutton 5-0-2, Natalie Mickelson 12-0-0, Rian Kirby 3-0-1, Sara Rahmanzai 10-0-2, Halie McArdle 17-0-1.
Set assists: OG 39 (Targy 38, Overkamp 1); G 41 (Davidson 40, Paige Young 1).
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