GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — There was a time late in the first set against Waverly in the Class B state volleyball semifinals when Grand Island Northwest coach Diane Rouzee thought about using a timeout.
She changed her mind and decided to let Northwest play it out when trailing 23-21.
That turned out to be a good thing.
Class B No. 1 Northwest won the next four points to take the first set en route to capturing a 25-23, 25-19, 25-12 victory over No. 5 Waverly on Friday at the Heartland Events Center.
The victory puts Northwest in the state championship for the sixth consecutive year. Northwest will play Gretna at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
“You have to have faith, and I have so much faith and confidence in my kids,” Rouzee said. “I was going to let them figure it out, and they did that.”
McKenzie Brown finished with 11 kills for Northwest.
“We just kept going with it,” Brown said. “We knew that if we could grab that first set, then we could get so excited and we could use that to our advantage.”
Northwest had to contain the attacks of Waverly’s Olivia Boender and Danielle Root.
The duo each had five kills in the first set to help Waverly lead almost the entire first set, its biggest at 20-16.
Northwest rallied to tied it at 21 before Root and Boender’s back-to-back kills gave Waverly a 23-21 lead.
After a Waverly error, a back-row kill from Angelica Carlini tied the match at 23. Another Waverly error gave Northwest the lead. Kaley Werner then gave Northwest the first-set win with an ace serve.
“If fortunes are turned around, maybe we take the set and things would have gone differently for us,” Waverly coach Terri Neujahr said. “The kids were disappointed that they lost that first set and thought they gave it away.”
After that, Northwest’s balance showed. To go along with Brown’s 11 kills, Morgan Westphal had eight kills, while Erin Sorahan and Katie Placke added six each. Brown had 13 digs and Carlini 12.
For Waverly, Boender finished with 17 kills and Root had 12.
“We dug a lot of balls on those two players,” Rouzee said. “We felt like our kids were going overcome their two big hitters, and our serving helped as they had trouble passing the ball at times and it didn’t give them a chance to set up their offense like they usually do.”
The balance showed in the next two sets. Northwest built a 17-8 lead in the second and went up 24-10 in the third — a Brown kill ended the match. Waverly hurt itself with 16 hitting errors in the last two sets.
“That team just doesn’t make mistakes, and they dug a lot of balls,” Neujahr said. “They have such nice balance that it was hard for our defense. After the first set, it just snowballed from us.”
Brown said she’s excited to return to the finals and hopes this will be the year Northwest can finally capture the title after falling in the past five finals.
“We really want this really bad,” Brown said. “This team has come together so well since day one, and it would mean the world to us if we can get over the edge and win this championship.”
Grand Island Northwest (34-2)..................................25 25 25
At Waverly (28-7).................................................23 19 12
GINW (Kills-aces-block): Erin Sorahan 6-0-0, Katie Placke 6-1-0, Kaley Werner 6-1-0, Morgan Westphal 8-0-1, Angelica Carlini 1-1-0, Nicole Broich 0-0-0, McKenzie Brown 11-0-0, Kennadi Keezer 2-0-3.
W: Makenna Meier 0-0-0, Mackenzie Hyde 1-1-0, Danielle Root 12-0-1, Alisha Loveless 5-0-1, Mallory Miesbach 0-0-0, Brianna Boender 0-1-1, Olivia Boender 17-0-1.
Set assists: NW: Placke 18, Hall 15, Westphal 2, Sorahan 1. WAV: Hyde 32, Miesbach 1, B. Boender 1.
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