Lincoln Pius X too much for Panthers

September 22, 2018

As the Norfolk and Lincoln Pius X volleyball teams warmed up for Thursday night’s match on opposite sides of the net, one thing was obvious: the Lincolnites were a whole lot taller.

The Thunderbolts’ starting lineup included 6-foot-3 middle Alexis Markowski, 6-foot-2 outside hitter Lauren Taubenheim and 6-foot-1 right side Morgan Christiansen, while no player on the Norfolk roster stands taller than 5-feet-11.

The state’s No. 3 team, according to the Omaha World-Herald, dominated from start to finish in sweeping the Panthers 25-6, 25-11, 25-11.

“There’s a reason they’re ranked where they are,” Norfolk coach Katie Wright-Oswald said.

More often than not, the Thunderbolts’ serves forced Norfolk out of system. They recorded 13 service aces to Norfolk’s two.

At the net, Pius X’s size and skill was too much for the Panthers, scoring on 32 kills and eight blocks, compared to Norfolk’s 14 and three.

“Our passing just has to improve,” Wright-Oswald said. “When we get out of system, it’s very difficult for us to get a good swing down so as a team, what we can take from this the heart.”

Heart. Wright-Oswald recalled a couple of examples. “There were some volleyballs that I thought were hopeless and I was amazed that we went for them anyway.

“I mean, Saydee (Mittlestaedt) ran all the way up in the bleachers and then Jalen (Hoffman) sent a ball back over and so there are certain things that we can teach but heart and character is not one of them and our girls already have that.”

The Panthers led just once all night – at 2-1 advantage in the third set -- and produced only one string of more than two consecutive points – a four-point swing that cut Pius’ second-set lead from 21-6 to 21-10.

Despite the one-sided match, there were some bright spots for the Panthers including outside hitter Hoffman.

The 5-foot-11 junior led the team with six kills and recorded a service ace. “We did a drill at practice where we were swinging away as aggressively as you can at anything regardless of what the ball looks like and when we called a timeout we talked about that,” Wright-Oswald said.

“Just swing away, what’s the worst that could happen? And Jalen took that and said that’s exactly what I’m going to do I’m going to go aggressively.”

Over the last week, the Panthers have gone through a gauntlet that included matches – all losses -- against three of the state’s top-four teams: Pius X, No. 2 Papillion-La Vista and No. 4 Omaha Marian.

But Wright-Oswald wouldn’t want it any other way. “I told the girls, we want to play hard, aggressive teams like this because that’s the only way we’re going to get better.

“We have to continue to fight and push forward and in the long run, this game is going to make us better as a team.”

The Panthers, who fell to 7-9 on the year, play another Heartland Athletic Conference foe at home on Tuesday night: 9-7 Fremont.

“We’ve got to wash this one away,” Wright-Oswald said. “I told the girls the nice thing about volleyball is that the game starts over at zero and we have a whole new opponent that we can prepare for. We’ll just continue to push forward.”

Lincoln Pius X defeats Norfolk

25-6, 25-11, 25-11

LINCOLN PIUS X (12-2): Grace Gokie, 11k, 2a; Morgan Christiansen, 7k, 4a, 2b; Lauren Taubenheim, 6k; Alexis Markowski, 4k, 3b; Delaney Humm, 4k, 7a, 2b; Anna McLain, 8k, 1a; Miriam Miller, 1k, 1b.

NORFOLK (7-9): Leah Petty, 1a; Saydee Mittlestaedt, 1k; Alex Ruth, 1k, 1b; Ali Soverign, 1k, 1b; Gabby Ruth, 4k, 1b; Jalen Hoffman, 6k, 1a; Anden Baumann, 1k.

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