A lot to like in Vikes opener
Three players recorded more than 10 kills and a brand new setter guided the offense successfully but it wasn’t quite enough for Lakeview to overcome a quality Seward team in a season-opening volleyball loss on Thursday at home.
The Bluejays, ranked No. 5 by the Lincoln Journal Star to begin the season, took the match in four sets 29-31, 25-20, 25-23, 25-19. It was their fourth match of the season already compared to the Lady Vikes just opening the season.
That fact, plus the returning experience of both clubs, and a long first set, contributed to Seward eventually seizing control as the match wore on.
Start to finish however, coach K.C. Belitz saw a lot to like about his group. Though he nor the girls are interested in moral victories, the performance against one of the top teams in Class B showed the Lady Vikes just how much potential remains for the rest of the season.
“We’ll never be satisfied with a loss, but I do think we saw some things tonight we can build on,” Belitz said. “It was a heck of a good battle against a good Seward team. They’re top five in Class B for a reason.”
Some of those things the team can build on included an intense first set, the offensive efficiency and a big night from the libero.
The opening game went well past the 25-point minimum with Lakeview saving set points along the way before finishing it off 31-29.
It also began a trend for hitters Abby Kapels, Britney Stock and Emily Vancleave. Libero Mattie Purcell denied Seward on several scoring chances and Reese Janssen looked comfortable in her first match as the starting setter.
“I was very pleased with our offense. Our two seniors outside did a really good job. For those two to hit .344 and .289, that’s pretty impressive,” Belitz said.
Vancleave finished the match with 13 kills on 32 attempts and only two errors. Kapels scored 19 kills on 45 swings with just six mistakes.
Stock was 12 of 38 with five errors.
For the match, Lakeview hit just .189 due to Seward’s ability to dig. But with 182 attacks total, Janssen successfully orchestrated the offense perhaps better than expected. The sophomore finished with 46 assists.
“I’m very pleased with what our hitters did, and they can’t do that with a pass and a set,” Belitz said. “Reese Janssen in her first match ever running a 5-1 did a really nice job distributing the ball.”
Defensively, it was Purcell constantly frustrating the Bluejay attack with 39 digs. She made just three errors while also going 23 for 24 on serve receive.
“None of those were easy. She was running to every corner of the court. That’s the thing that stood out. Seward’s two hitters not only hit it really hard, they are so smart,” Belitz said. “So Mattie had to work really hard on all those digs, in addition to what she did on serve receive which keeps us in system and allows our hitters to be more successful as well. I can’t say enough about what Mattie did for us tonight at libero against a really good Seward team.”
Still, even with all those elements coming together, Seward kept finding ways to respond. A long first set, though it ended in a win for Lakeview, may also have contributed to the Bluejays controlling play most of the remainder of the night.
“Being our first match, and the energy and emotion that goes with that, I think it drained us a little bit. If you’re even a half step slow against either of those two, they’re going to eat your lunch, and they did,” Belitz said. “You put a lot of emotion into that set, and a lot of energy, and you really expended a lot in that first set. I think you absolutely saw that play out the rest of the night.”
It was proof though, the ceiling for the Lady Vikes could be quite high in 2018.
“This is something we can build on. The next time we see Seward, hopefully in the conference tournament final, because that’s probably the only other time we’d see them, I wouldn’t mind our chances in that match,” Belitz said. “They were three matches in, and I was pleased with the way we battled. They have a lot of pieces back from last year that were in the same place. For us, we had just Abby and Britney back, and Reese, who was a part-time player.”
Thursday Volleyball Scoreboard (fit as much as needed)
Adams Central def. Gibbon, 25-11, 25-20 (2-0)
Adams Central def. Ravenna, 25-14, 25-19 (2-0)
Alliance def. Scottsbluff, 25-19, 25-12, 26-24 (3-0)
Amherst def. Kenesaw, 23-25, 25-21, 26-24 (2-1)
Anselmo-Merna def. Ansley-Litchfield, 25-20, 25-23 (2-0)
Anselmo-Merna def. Twin Loup, 25-21, 25-21 (2-0)
Ansley-Litchfield def. Twin Loup, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21 (2-1)
Aquinas Catholic def. Yutan, 25-8, 25-15, 25-7 (3-0)
Arcadia/Loup City def. Amherst, 25-22, 20-25, 25-22 (2-1)
Arcadia/Loup City def. Kenesaw, 20-25, 25-21, 25-21 (2-1)
Archbishop Bergan def. Pender, 25-10, 25-6 (2-0)
Archbishop Bergan def. West Point-Beemer, 25-13, 25-20 (2-0)
Atwood-Rawlins County, KS def. Maywood-Hayes Center, 25-22, 25-16 (2-0)
Atwood-Rawlins County, KS def. Southwest, 25-19, 25-14 (2-0)
Auburn def. Fairbury, 25-14, 25-15, 23-25, 25-15 (3-1)
Aurora def. York, 25-19, 25-19, 25-21 (3-0)
Axtell def. Eustis-Farnam, 25-10, 25-13 (2-0)
BDS def. Exeter-Milligan, 25-20, 25-19 (2-0)
BDS def. Hampton, 25-17, 25-16 (2-0)
BRLD def. Guardian Angels Central Catholic, 25-18, 25-21 (2-0)
Battle Creek def. Humphrey St. Francis, 25-14, 25-15 (2-0)
Bayard def. Morrill, 25-22, 25-18, 26-24 (3-0)
Bennington def. Norris, 17-25, 25-15, 22-25, 25-22, 15-5 (3-2)
Bertrand def. Alma, 21-25, 25-15, 25-19 (2-1)
Bishop Neumann def. Ashland-Greenwood, 25-17, 25-12, 25-18 (3-0)
Blue Hill def. Doniphan-Trumbull, 25-15, 25-19 (2-0)
Blue Hill def. Wood River, 25-15, 25-16 (2-0)
Boyd County def. Santee, 25-10, 25-16 (2-0)
Brady def. Maxwell, 25-4, 25-19, 25-14 (3-0)
Bridgeport def. Kimball, 25-21, 27-25, 25-17 (3-0)
Broken Bow def. Gothenburg, 25-19, 25-23, 25-18 (3-0)
Burwell def. North Central, 25-20, 25-20 (2-0)
Burwell def. West Holt, 25-17, 25-12 (2-0)
CWC def. Elgin Public/Pope John, 25-16, 23-25, 25-21 (2-1)
CWC def. Stuart, 25-18, 25-9 (2-0)
Cambridge def. Alma, 27-25, 25-17 (2-0)
Cambridge def. Bertrand, 25-14, 24-26, 25-23 (2-1)
Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at email@example.com.