GRAND ISLAND, Neb. — Kearney Catholic found out what it was like to go five sets for the first time Saturday night. Boy, was it sweet.
In a start-to-finish thriller, the top-ranked Stars (35-0) outlasted Columbus Scotus 25-19, 21-25, 18-25, 25-17, 15-9 to win the Class C-1 state championship at the Heartland Events Center.
“We've wanted this forever,” Kearney Catholic senior Michaela Mestl said. “To have it be the picture perfect rematch of last year was unbelievable.”
The Stars avenged the five-set loss to Scotus in last season's state championship match, and it didn't come easy. The Shamrocks (25-4) jumped out to a 2-1 lead and took the early lead in the fourth set.
“I'm just so proud of the way they came back,” Kearney Catholic coach Kris Conner said. “Towards the end of that third set, the chips were down. I knew they were fighters and I kept waiting for it.”
Mestl tallied four of her 17 kills in the fourth set to help even things up for the Stars. Then teammate Bailey Sokolowski fired four consecutive kills to put Kearney Catholic up 6-1 in the fifth set.
“(Bailey) really wanted to come back this year and redeem herself,” Conner said of the 6-foot-1 senior, who tallied a team-high 18 kills in the match. “She was very disappointed with her performance last year. That fourth set she came alive, and you could see in her eyes that she was ready to go.”
Senior Megan Anderson added 10 kills in the match, including back-to-back smashes in the fifth set to widen the gap 14-7. Shayla Conner dished out 48 assists in the contest. It was the type of effort expected from a seasoned team.
“Their sense of fight and their sense of leadership,” Conner said was the biggest difference about this year's group. “It certainly helps being down here a few years and understanding the pressure.”
Scouts weren't going to give up its title so easily.
“We swung hard and we served tough,” Columbus Scotus coach John Petersen said. “We had to drive them back, and I thought we did a pretty decent job of that.”
Kearney Catholic couldn't find an answer for Scouts' Payton Chohon, who tallied 24 kills.
“Payton had a great match, we just couldn't get the ball to her like we needed to in that fourth or fifth set,” Petersen said. Chohon was unable to record a kill in the fifth set.
Lauran Hellbusch put down 13 kills and Alyssa Foltz added 12 kills for Scotus. Kara Moore totaled 48 assists.
Kearney Catholic (36-0)..........................25 21 18 25 15
Columbus Scotus (25-4).........................19 25 25 17 9
KC (kills-aces-blocks): Michaela Mestl 17-4-3, Kalynn Brannagan 7-0-0, Shayla Conner 1-0-1, Bailey Sokolowski 18-0-2, Therin Baum 4-1-1, Allie Prososki 0-3-0, Megan Anderson 10-0-3.
CS: Kara Moore 1-1-1, Lauran Hellbusch 13-1-0, Alyssa Foltz 12-2-0, Allison Bos 0-1-0, Carley Foltz 4-1-1, Maeghan Pieper 3-0-1, Payton Chohon 24-0-1.
Set assists: KC 48 (Conner 48), CS 48 (Moore 48).