GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — While Skyler Erickson's effectiveness at the net is obvious, Cedar Valley coach Todd Beck is quick to point out that his senior standout is the epitome of an all-around volleyball player.
“Everyone sees how well she can hit, but what they don't notice is how good of a back-row player she is,” Beck said. “We rely on her for big plays.”
Erickson had match-high totals in kills (22) and digs (24) to go along with four blocks on Friday, helping the No. 4-rated Mavericks defeat No. 3 Mead 25-18, 25-21, 20-25, 25-20 in the Class D-2 state semifinals at Grand Island Senior High School. It marks the first trip to the finals for Cedar Valley in its third year as a consolidation of Greeley-Wolbach and Cedar Rapids.
The Mavericks finished third in the tournament in 2010 and were eliminated in the first round last season.
For Erickson, it's an opportunity to finish her career where it started. The 5-foot-9 middle hitter was a freshman starter on Greeley-Wolbach's 2009 Class D-2 state championship squad.
“Skyler really wants to get a first-place finish again this year,” Beck said. “So we're one step closer.”
Erickson has been a foundation the Mavericks could build on this season.
“Twice in the second set, Skyler came all the way up (from the back row) and was crawling and passed the ball with one hand,” Beck said. “She just moves across the court really well and she gets everywhere. She's a big part of our team.”
Lindsay Lammers ran Cedar Valley's offense efficiently, recording 36 assists and to go with three ace serves. Brooke Behnk had five kills and seven blocks for the Mavericks.
Cedar Valley will face last year's Class D-1 state champion and No. 1-rated Humphrey (32-2) in Saturday's 9 a.m. final at the Heartland Events Center. The Mavericks handed the Bulldogs one of their two losses this season, beating them 2-1 on Sept. 13 in the Chambers/Wheeler Central Tournament at Bartlett.
Maddison Nygren (11 kills), Lauren Taylor (10) and Haley Konecky (nine) led a balanced attack for Mead (27-5). Devynn Patocka added 29 assists, while Nygren and Taylor had 22 digs apiece for the Raiders, who will face No. 2 Giltner (29-3) at 2 p.m. Saturday in the third-place match at Grand Island Northwest.
Beck said Cedar Valley's ability to limit mistakes was one of the keys to winning Friday's semifinal.
“We say this all the time, but unforced errors (are big),” Beck said. “We wanted to make sure Mead had to play the ball every time and they made some of their own mistakes. That's what kills a team.
“I thought we did a better job of not making as many errors today and I think that was the difference.”
Mead (27-5).......................................18 21 25 20
Cedar Valley (26-6)...............................25 25 20 25
M (kills-aces-blocks): Margaret Johnson 1-0-1, Maddison Nygren 11-1-3, Morgan Luetkenhaus 0-1-0, Devynn Patocka 2-0-0, Lauren Taylor 10-1-3, Miranda Charles 2-2-1, Julia Schnell 0-1-0, Haley Konecky 9-0-6. Totals 35-6-14.
CV: Brooke Behnk 5-0-7, Jayden Erickson 5-0-1, Lindsay Lammers 0-3-2, Kaitlyn Wood 0-1-0, Skyler Erickson 22-1-4, Ashlynn Wood 0-0-1, Sidney Wood 0-0-0, Evey Choat 0-0-0, Kara Donovan 4-1-2. Totals 36-6-17.
Set assists: M 31 (Patocka 29, Nygren 1, Charles 1); CV 36 (Lammers 36).