The team that has dominated Class A volleyball the past three seasons once again has a stranglehold on the All-Nebraska squad.
Papillion-La Vista South places three players on the first team — twin sisters Amber and Kadie Rolfzen and Kelly Hunter. The trio of Nebraska recruits helped the Titans go 41-1 this season while earning their third consecutive Class A title.
Coach Gwen Egbert's squads are 119-1 since 2010 and 155-6 over the four-year varsity careers of the Rolfzens and Hunter. The 6-foot-2 twins were named to the first-team All-Nebraska squad four consecutive times while Hunter lands a spot for the third straight year.
Today, the three are named honorary captains of the first team.
“I don't know if we've ever seen three players like that have such an impact on the sport here,” Egbert said. “I'm looking forward to seeing them play for the Huskers.”
Newcomers to the first team are Lexi Elman of Omaha Marian, Alyssa Frauendorfer of Humphrey, Michaela Mestl of Kearney Catholic and Sydney Townsend of Lincoln Pius X. Frauendorfer moves up from last year's second team while Elman and Mestl were third-team selections in 2011.
On the second team are Maggie Heim of Marian, Olivia Boender of Waverly, Jessica Bird of Bennington, Taylor Burbage of Bellevue East, Katie Higgins of Kearney, Chandelle Davidson of Gretna and Michelle Thommi of Omaha Skutt.
Third-team selections are Marysa Wilkinson of Lincoln Southwest, Kinslie Tekolste of Lincoln Southeast, Samara West of Omaha North, Bailey Sokolowski and Morgan Stute of Kearney Catholic, KC Heimann of Howells-Dodge and Alexa Johnson of Papillion-La Vista.
Selections for the All-Nebraska and all-class teams are based on observations by World-Herald staff writers and nominations by coaches.
The outside hitter led the Titans with 352 kills and finished her career with 1,485. She also had 229 digs and 27 blocks.
“I thought she made a big jump technically this season,” Egbert said. “She improved her passing, serving and attacking and made the most of her opportunities.”
Egbert said one of Amber's best matches came against Marian in the final of the Metro Conference tournament. Her strong play helped the Titans sweep the Crusaders, one of Papio South's five wins over Marian this season.
“She played exceptionally well that night,” the coach said. “That was something to see.”
Rolfzen also performed at a high level at the state tournament. She had 12 kills in a first-round win against Papillion-La Vista, 11 in a semifinal against Millard West and nine in the final against Marian.
“I think she can be a really good player at Nebraska,” Egbert said. “She's going to be right in the mix, so that will be fun to see.”
Like her sister, Kadie ended her Titans career in a big way. She had 328 kills and finished with 1,578 for her varsity career.
She also led the Titans in digs with 299 and had 30 blocks.
“I thought Kadie had a really solid senior season,” Egbert said. “Her expectations are so high that she wants that from everyone. She wants to compete and she wants to win.”
The Titans did plenty of that with Rolfzen in the lineup. She had 48 kills in three state tournament matches, including 17 in the championship against the Crusaders.
“One of her biggest strengths is her court vision,” Egbert said. “She always seemed to be able to find the open spot.”
Egbert added that Rolfzen continued to improve her game, right to the end of the season.
“She used more touch this year because she knew there were times when that was needed,” she said. “And she was more ready defensively, and her digs point that out.”
Both Rolfzen sisters will graduate early from Papio South to get a jump on their volleyball careers at Nebraska.
The 5-11 setter had 808 assists this season. She also had 208 digs, 65 aces and 42 blocks.
“Kelly made a big jump in her game as our only setter,” Egbert said. “She has an ability to focus and to understand what needs to happen.”
Hunter had 677 assists last season and Whitney Kostal had 438 in the Titans' 6-2 attack. The one-setter offense put added pressure on the NU recruit this season and she responded.
In the first round of the state tournament, Hunter had 29 assists in the win over Papio. She had 39 in the semifinal victory over Millard West and 32 in the Class A final.
“Kelly always played at a high level,” Egbert said. “And she learned something from every match.”
Hunter's strong jump serve gave the Titans another weapon, and her height at the net made it difficult for opponents to target the setter position for possible kills.
Unlike the Rolfzens, Hunter won't graduate early to begin her Nebraska career.
“I think there will be an adjustment period for all three of them to adapt to the speed of the college game,” Egbert said. “But there's no doubt in my mind that the three will make an impact there.”
A three-year varsity performer for the Crusaders, her kill total went up each year. The 6-foot outside hitter had 189 as a sophomore, 367 as a junior and 498 as a senior.
“She carried us through this season,” Marian coach Rochelle Rohlfs said. “She showed up to play hard every match.”
In addition to kills, the University of Pacific recruit was among the Crusaders' leaders in several other team categories. She was second in hitting percentage (.340), aces (51) and digs (386) and third in blocks (33).
Rohlfs said Elman also was at her best in close matches.
“She was such a go-to player for us,” the coach said. “Lexi helped us win a lot of tight ones.”
At least one rival coach mentioned Elman's strong defensive play, saying that his team actually preferred serving to the libero — considered the strongest defensive player on the court — instead of targeting Elman.
“She improved several aspects of her game as a senior, and defense was just one of them,” Rohlfs said. “Her versatility made us a very tough team.”
Elman follows her sister Katie, who was a first-team All-Nebraska libero last season at Marian.
The 6-foot senior helped the Class D-2 Bulldogs capture a second consecutive state title in just their second trip to the state tournament.
Frauendorfer led the way with 501 kills. She also had 375 digs and 136 blocks as Humphrey finished the season 33-2.
“We had a great season, and Alyssa's numbers are just part of the story,” Bulldogs coach Gary Bender said. “She grew a lot as a team leader this year and played a major role in helping our young girls.”
That was key to the team's success, because Humphrey graduated seven seniors from the 2011 championship squad. But Frauendorfer, a Wayne State recruit, accepted the challenge and the Bulldogs once again took home the hardware.
Bender said the senior was especially helpful with the progress of Tarrin Beller, the lone freshman on the team who finished second in kills behind Frauendorfer.
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“From the first day, Alyssa took Tarrin under her wing,” he said. “I can't emphasize enough how important it was for Alyssa to be that kind of player this season.”
At the state tournament, Frauendorfer had 80 kills — including 23 in the D-2 final against Cedar Valley.
Not the tallest player on the court, the 5-foot-6 Mestl still managed to get the job done for the Stars.
The three-year varsity starter helped Kearney Catholic reach the state final in 2010 and 2011, though the Stars came up short both times. The team went back to the Class C-1 championship match in 2012 and finished the job, defeating Columbus Scotus in five sets to cap a 36-0 season and capture the school's first title.
Mestl had another outstanding season with 282 kills, 54 aces and a hitting percentage of .392. But coach Kris Conner said the senior's leadership skills were crucial, especially in the state final when the Stars trailed the defending champion Shamrocks 2-1 in sets.
“She was bound and determined that we were going to come back,” Conner said. “She was such a fierce competitor any time she stepped on the court.”
After Kearney Catholic stayed alive by winning the fourth set, the Stars led 9-7 in the final set when Mestl — a Wayne State recruit — went back to serve.
“During a timeout just before that, Michaela had said that she promised to serve out the match if she got the chance,” Conner said. “And she almost did it.”
She started with an ace and then served the next four points to put the Stars one win away from victory. Kearney Catholic won the final set 15-9 to secure the title.
Recognized by several coaches as the top libero in Class A, the 5-8 junior helped the Thunderbolts finish third at the state tournament.
Townsend, a Nebraska recruit, finished the season with 663 digs and 36 aces. Pius went 29-12 this year after moving up from Class B.
Making her progress more impressive was the fact she was an outside hitter for the Thunderbolts in her first two varsity seasons.
“She moved to the new position last year during the club season,” Pius coach Jake Moore said. “She knew that would be her role in college and she really embraced the switch.”
Moore said Townsend worked hard to improve, and the results were obvious.
“The back row was hers,” he said. “She really took it to heart and made herself one of the best defensive players in the state.”
Townsend had one of her best matches of the season in a first-rounder at state against Lincoln Southeast. The junior had 39 digs in a four-set victory.
“The best thing is that I don't think we've even come close to tapping her potential,” Moore said. “It's going to be fun to see her progress even more as a senior and then beyond that at Nebraska.”
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