GRAND ISLAND – The Dukes didn't beat top-seeded Northwest, but they darn sure bloodied the beast's nose.
York took the second set before the Vikings got away with a 25-10, 24-26, 25-10, 25-12 win in first round action Thursday at the state volleyball tourney at Grand Island High School.
Coach Kayla Makovicka's senior-laden Dukes went into the match as the eighth and last seed in the tournament with a 15-14 record. They faced a Northwest squad that was 32-2 and on a 25-0 run since falling to Elkhorn South way back on Sept. 8.
The Vikings had a remarkable run of 58 straight sets without dropping even one, but then they ran into a gutsy bunch of Dukes.
Game one looked like a case of early jitters for the Dukes, and why not? York hadn't been under the lights of the state tourney since 1989, an absence of 23 years.
The Vikings ran away early, predictably, to a 10-4 lead before Makovicka called timeout. The Dukes had a tandem block from Sarah Stephens and Dacia Stuhr and an Erica Koehler kill, but the going was tough. Aleah Rosenau got a kill for York, but after all that the Dukes still trailed 13-6.
York looked more settled at the end, but game one still went to the Vikings.
Then came the real excitement.
York went up 1-zip in game two on an ace block from Rosenau, tied it 2-2 on a kill by Stephens and then parlayed another Stephens kill into a 3-2 lead.
The Dukes went up 5-4 on a pounding kill from Erin Malleck thanks in large part to a perfect set from Olivia Stubbs. One-point Duke leads were maintained at 6-5 and 7-6 on kills by Koehler, who led the Duke attack with nine, and Rosenau, whose match total was eight.
Rosenau got a tip kill that made York's margin two points at 8-6. A couple Viking errors helped post York to a lead of 12-8.
By now, the Dukes were definitely beginning to believe.
A Stephens kill followed by a Rosenau ace made the score 14-9 Dukes.
That was enough for Northwest coach Diane Rouzee, who was forced to jab a fist in the air, acknowledge her team's struggles, and call timeout.
When play resumed York server Rosenau promptly fired a no-touch-'em ace into the middle of the Viking's listing ship. A Rosenau kill made it 16-11 and one from Stephens had York up 18-13. Rosenau's next kill made the board read 19-14 Dukes.
The Vikes rallied, as everyone knew they would, to just one behind, 21-20, when a Duke attack flew long. Malleck's kill made it 22-20, but when York hit wide it was deadlocked at 22-all.
York went ahead 23-22, only to have the Vikings forge at 23-23 tie.
Northwest's Morgan Westphal got one of her nine kills in the match and suddenly York faced game point with the Vikes ahead 24-23.
Makovicka called a halt to settle her troops and break Northwest's momentum. The tactic worked when the Vikings promptly sent the first serve soaring over the backline when play resumed, 24-24.
Malleck served up an ace at the ideal moment and now it was York at game point leading 25-24.
The winner came when Koehler fired a point-blank rocket shot off the Viking block and out of play to close out Northwest.
The match was tied at that point, 1-1.
Game three saw the Vikings take a 9-3 lead before a Koehler kill stopped the bleeding at 9-4. Two Rosenau kills had York within four, 10-6, but next thing the Dukes knew they were down 16-7 and Makovicka was calling timeout.
The Vikes got a tape ace, went up 20-8 and were never headed the rest of the way.
The fourth game saw the Dukes tie at 5-all on a spike kill and a tip kill from Koehler, then a Malleck ace serve. A block kill by Stuhr and Stubbs had the Dukes within two, 10-8, but Northwest scored on four of the next five rallies to go ahead 14-9 before Koehler found the deep corner with a kill, 14-11.
York was destined to score only one more point the rest of the way as the Vikings served out the match.
York got four kills each from Malleck and Stephens, three and two blocks from Stubbs and Stuhr, and a block each from Rosenau, Koehler and Stephens. Ace serves numbered two each for Malleck and Rosenau. Koehler and Rosenau led the team in digs with 10 apiece to which Malleck added six. Liz Harlow and Stubbs were credited with four digs each. Stubbs had 22 set assists.
Katelyn Placke hammered a match-high 13 kills for the Vikings.
“They are a good team,” said Makovicka after the match. “They deserve the No. 1 spot.”
The fact her Dukes took a set from the tournament favorite just shows York's level of improvement, she said.
In the second set her Dukes “were more energetic” and that helped them win the set.
Makovicka said there were indeed some state tourney butterflies at the start, but not for long.
“They were warmed up right away” and settled in by the time the first few points went on the board.
Seniors Rosenau, Stubbs, Delaney Woods, Harlow, Koehler and Stephens “will definitely be missed,” she said. “They were all important” to the Dukes. “There will be some tough shoes to fill.”
How does a young coach feel after taking a team to state for the first time in 23 years?
“It's a good feeling,” Makovicka said, then smiled and added, “especially with this group of seniors. I couldn't ask for a better team” to take to state.
York (15-15)....................................10 26 10 12
Northwest (33-2)...............................25 24 25 25
Y (Kills-aces-blocks): Liz Harlow 0-0-0, Olivia Stubbs 0-0-3, Aleah Rosenau 8-2-1, Dacia Stuhr 0-0-2, Erica Koehler 9-1-1, Erin Malleck 4-2-0, Sarah Stephens 4-0-1.
NW: Erin Sorahan 6—0-2, Katie Placke 13-1-1, Morgan Mallory 0-0-0, Kaley Werner 5-1-2, Morgan Westphal 9-0-1, Angelica Carlini 1-3-0, Neleigh Hall 1-0-0, Nicole Broich 0-0-0, McKenzie Brown 9-1-0, Kennadi Keezer 4-0-1.
Set assists: Y Stubbs 22, Koehler 2, Stephens 1, Harlow 1. NW Hall 22, Placke 20, Westphal 1, Broich 1.