Crystal ball. Tea leaves. Ouija board.
I’m pulling out all the stops this year to try to predict the champions of the 48-team state volleyball tournament that begins Thursday in Grand Island.
It’s been an interesting season, with parity being the key word. The six squads that put together three solid state tourney matches will head home with the hardware, while the other 42 will use this experience as an early foundation for 2014.
Let’s see how the tourney may (or may not) shake out ...
Millard West has been ranked No. 1 most of the season, though the Wildcats’ path to their first title is not an easy one. There isn’t a lot of separation between the eight squads that reached state, but we’ll give a slight edge to Millard West (34-2) to finish off its best season ever with a championship.
First round: Millard West over Grand Island; Millard North over Papillion-La Vista; Omaha Marian over Lincoln Southwest; Lincoln North Star over Lincoln Southeast.
Semifinals: Millard West over Millard North; Marian over North Star.
Final: Millard West over Marian.
Grand Island Northwest is 36-0 but seeded second behind Lincoln Pius X, which played the most difficult schedule in this class. Pius, Waverly and Omaha Skutt all scare me, but Northwest has done everything right to this point and has the inside track to its second consecutive title.
First round: Grand Island Northwest over Beatrice; Waverly over Norris; Lincoln Pius X over Elkhorn South; Omaha Skutt over Aurora.
Semifinals: Northwest over Waverly; Pius over Skutt.
Final: Northwest over Pius.
Any time Columbus Scotus reaches this point, it’s tough to pick against the Shamrocks. Coach John Petersen’s squad has won a state-leading 15 titles, though Scotus will need to battle through three difficult opponents to capture sweet 16.
First round: Ogallala over Wayne; Kearney Catholic over Chadron; Scotus over Syracuse; Minden over Wahoo.
Semifinals: Kearney Catholic over Ogallala; Scotus over Minden.
Final: Scotus over Kearney Catholic.
Freeman is the top seed while second seed Hastings St. Cecilia is ranked No. 1. We’ll give the edge to the Hawkettes, though it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see any of the other teams in the C-2 field go home with the title.
First round: Hastings St. Cecilia over Norfolk Lutheran; Crofton over Palmyra; Freeman over Ord; West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic over Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family.
Semifinals: St. Cecilia over Crofton; West Point GACC over Freeman.
Final: St. Cecilia over West Point GACC.
Sleeper: Humphrey/Lindsay HF.
O’Neill St. Mary’s enters the tourney top-ranked and top-seeded, though several other teams aren’t far behind. That top seed gives the Cardinals a little more favorable draw, and we’ll stick with them to take home the school’s first title.
First round: O’Neill St. Mary’s over Cross County; Friend over Chambers/Wheeler Central; Bruning-Davenport/Shickley over Brady; Howells-Dodge over Axtell.
Semifinals: St. Mary’s over Friend; BDS over Howells-Dodge.
Final: St. Mary’s over BDS.
Undefeated Bertrand is seeking its first title after runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2011. A district final sweep of Giltner proves this team is ready to take that final step to a championship.
First round: Giltner over Leyton; Mead over Sterling; Bertrand over Wallace; Falls City Sacred Heart over Stuart.
Semifinals: Giltner over Mead; Bertrand over Sacred Heart.
Final: Bertrand over Giltner.