A slow start to the season didn't prevent Bennington's Jessica Bird from putting up big numbers once again this season.
The 6-foot senior pounded 254 kills and had 150 digs despite missing eight early matches with a sprained ankle. The Creighton recruit helped Bennington finish with 15 wins — not bad for a team that struggled when it was without her.
“When she came back, she came back full-force,” Badgers coach Amanda Balk said. “She's a strong hitter and blocker, but Jess was more of an all-around player this season.”
Bird, a four-year starter, is this year's honorary captain of the All-Omaha Area volleyball team. She is one of three returning first-teamers, along with Chandelle Davidson of Gretna and Michelle Thommi of Omaha Skutt.
Other first-team selections are Leanna Willer of Elkhorn, Natalie Mickelson of Gretna, Brittany Cech of Elkhorn South and Ellie Targy of Omaha Gross. Willer, Cech and Targy move up from last year's second team.
On this year's second team are Halie McArdle of Gretna, Rachel Wald of Douglas County West, Sam Hansen of Bennington, Megan Wickey of Omaha Concordia, Maddison Nygren of Mead, Shelby Mlynczak of Omaha Gross and Jess Diederich of Omaha Skutt.
Selections are based on observations by World-Herald staff writers and nominations from coaches.
Davidson was a major reason for the Dragons finishing as the Class B runners-up at the state tournament. She dished out 931 assists, including 141 in three matches at state. In the final against Grand Island Northwest, Davidson had 64 assists in five sets. But the Vikings prevailed, denying Gretna its first state title.
“She always played with a lot of poise,” Gretna coach Mike Brandon said. “Her biggest asset was that she kept everyone focused and relaxed.”
Mickelson also played a major role for the Dragons. She had 332 kills and a team-high 486 digs.
“She was all-around our best player,” Brandon said. “Natalie was our top defender, and she was great at finding the open spots on the other side of the court.”
Thommi, recognized by coaches as one of the best liberos in Class B, helped the SkyHawks win 22 matches.
Willer had 456 kills for the Antlers, an average of more than five per set. She also led the team in hitting percentage at .272 and was second in digs with 322.
Cech helped the Storm earn their second trip to state, pounding a team-high 357 kills. She had 11 in a first-round loss to Waverly.
Targy began her career as a defensive specialist but was the setter the past two seasons. She had 717 assists, including 38 in a first-round loss to Gretna at the state tournament.
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All-Omaha Area Teams
Name, School, Ht., Yr.
Jessica Bird, Bennington, 6-0, Sr.
Chandelle Davidson, Gretna, 5-7, Sr.
Michelle Thommi, Omaha Skutt, 5-3, Sr.
Leanna Willer, Elkhorn, 5-10, Sr.
Natalie Mickelson, Gretna, 5-8, Jr.
Brittany Cech, Elkhorn South, 5-10, Sr.
Ellie Targy, Om. Gross, 5-9, Sr.
Honorary captain: Bird
Halie McArdle, Gretna, 5-9, Fr.
Rachel Wald, DC West, 5-8, Jr.
Sam Hansen, Bennington, 6-0, Sr.
Megan Wickey, Omaha Concordia, 6-0, So.
Maddison Nygren, Mead, 5-6, Jr.
Shelby Mlynczak, Omaha Gross, 5-10, Sr.
Jess Diederich, Omaha Skutt, 5-7, Sr.
Arlington: Sydney Whitmarsh, Olivia Schneider, Lauren Mues. Ashland-Greenwood: Kaitlyn Thomas, Jennifer Klaudt, Kirsten Laune. Bennington: Alexis Farris, Heather Showers. Blair: Marissa O’Grady, Emily Wing. Boys Town: Annie Polland, Jordan Willer. Conestoga: Sara Morton, Chelsie Topliff. Douglas County West: Kylie Wald, Emma Coenen, Hanah Jorgensen. Elkhorn: Brenna Nelson. Elkhorn South: Ashley Knight, Allison Rogers, Kelsey Green, Emily Gregan. Gretna: Rian Kirby. Louisville: Samantha Lane, Morgan Dittberner, Madison Shepard. Mead: Devynn Patocka, Julia Schnell, Lauren Taylor, Haley Konecky. Om. Brownell-Talbot: Sydney Woods, Katie Zheng. Om. Christian: Jesse Wirges, Morgan Holmes, Micaela Myers. Om. Concordia: Taylor Wickey, Becky Mueller, Beth Rasmussen. Om. Duchesne: Amanda Foje, Elise Fulcher, Tori Lee. Om. Gross: Tahlyr Banks, Alex Opperman. Om. Mercy: Maggie Timmerman, Maria Mendick, Michelle Wees. Om. Roncalli: Emilie Barnes, Bailey Preston, Abby Goetz, Maddie Dotzler. Om. Skutt: Claire Knust, Megan Ruzicka. Ralston: Maddie Goltl, Megan Stilmock. Weeping Water: Marylyn Mozena, Kendall Guhl, Kayla Jameson. Yutan: Morgan O’Malley, Madison Egr, Brooke Kelly.