GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — It’s been a state tournament of firsts for the Gretna volleyball team.
The Dragons won their first tourney match in school history Thursday night, and now will have the opportunity to play for their first state championship.
That was assured Friday after the Dragons swept Sidney 25-21, 25-16, 25-11 in a Class B semifinal at the Heartland Events Center. Gretna will play Grand Island Northwest at 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s humbling,” Dragons coach Mike Brandon said. “It’s a tribute to the girls who have been through the program and the ones who are here now. I’m just along for the ride.”
Gretna was able to refocus after its emotional four-set win over second-seeded Omaha Gross in a first-round match late Thursday night.
“I was worried about a letdown,” Brandon said. “But based on how the girls were acting before this one, I was pretty calm.”
The Lady Raiders also were coming off a big first-round win, defeating Norris in five sets. But Sidney was unable to duplicate that effort while playing its second consecutive match against a powerful Eastern Midlands Conference foe.
“Their hitters are very smart,” Lady Raiders coach Sarah Wilson said. “They were able to get around our block and find the holes in our defense.”
Sidney stayed close in the first set and trailed just 22-21 after a kill by Cody Rowley. But Gretna won the set by rattling off the next three points — a kill by freshman Halie McArdle and a pair of Sidney hitting errors.
“Gretna got the momentum going and carried that into the second set,” Wilson said. “That was a big point in the match.”
The Dragons opened a nine-point lead in that second set and won 25-16 on a kill by Sara Rahmanzai. Gretna then finished off the match in dominating fashion, going on a late 13-1 run to capture the third set 25-11 and earn its trip to the final.
McArdle led Gretna with 14 kills while Natalie Mickelson and Rian Kirby had nine each. Madison Sutton added six kills and four blocks while setter Chandelle Davidson had 36 assists.
Saturday’s championship will be an intriguing match between state final regular Grand Island Northwest and newcomer Gretna. The Vikings have finished as the state runner-up the past five years while the Dragons are entering uncharted territory.
“They’re obviously going to be well prepared for what’s ahead,” Brandon said. “We’re going to go out and have fun.”
Sidney (26-7)...............................21 16 11
Gretna (26-8)...............................25 25 25
S (kills-aces-blocks): Kylee Price 0-1-0, Karissa Segelke 6-1-2, Madison Malzahn 1-0-0, Abbi Porter 5-0-0, Cody Rowley 4-0-1, Sarah Mahr 4-0-0, Kali Robb 9-0-1.
G: Chandelle Davidson 1-1-1, Madison Sutton 6-0-4, Paige Young 0-1-0, Natalie Mickelson 9-4-0, Rian Kirby 9-0-0, Zoe Otteman 0-2-0, Sara Rahmanzai 4-0-1, Halie McArdle 14-0-0.
Set assists: S 22 (Malzahn 22); G 38 (Davidson 36, Young 1, McArdle 1).
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