LINCOLN – As Chadron volleyball head coach Don Matt walked to the locker room Friday following his team’s 3-0 loss to Ord in the semifinal round of the Class C-1 state tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena, he knew exactly what he wanted to tell his squad.
He wanted them to know how proud he was of the way they battled against one of the best teams in the state.
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“What I told them in the locker room was, ‘I’ll never doubt how hard you guys play. You guys fought hard and gave it everything you had,’” he said. “I’m so pleased with them. This is such a great group of girls.”
The No. 3 seeded Chanticleers (31-3) may have earned a sweep over the second-seeded Cardinals (33-5), but it was far from easy.
Chadron rallied from a 17-9 deficit in game one to pull back to within 23-22 and then 24-23 before Ord held on for a 25-23 victory. Chadron shrugged off the first-set loss and bolted to a 20-12 advantage in game two, but the Chanticleers managed to put together a rally themselves for a 28-26 victory.
Chadron continued to battle tough in the third set, but Ord got on a roll midway through the frame and went on to win 25-17 to advance to Saturday’s state championship match.
“We never gave up in any of the sets. We were always pushing hard and trying to get better,” Chadron junior outside hitter Alexandria Nobiling said. “We gave it everything we had.”
Although Chadron came up short of reaching the state final, the Cardinals’ performance no doubt earned them some more respect in C-1. Coming into the state tournament, Ord was ranked No. 2 in the Omaha World-Herald’s Class C-1 Top 10 poll behind Kearney Catholic, while Chadron was No. 6. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Chadron moved up in the final ratings.
“That was a big step for us, showing everyone that we deserved to be here,” Nobiling said. “We worked hard for it.”
Chadron will look to put the finishing touches on its memorable season Saturday when it plays Columbus Scotus in the third-place match. Scotus suffered a heartbreaker in its semifinal match as three-time defending state champion Kearney Catholic held on for a 25-22, 23-25, 12-25, 25-16, 16-14 win. First serve between Chadron and Scotus (25-7) is set for 8 a.m. MST at Lincoln Northeast High School.
Chadron, which defeated Bishop Neumann 3-2 on Thursday for its first win at state since 1996, remains highly driven, Nobiling said.
“We’re ready to come back after this loss and compete hard tomorrow,” she said. “We want to finish it out strong.”
Against Ord, the Cardinals made some early miscues, including some missed serves, that helped the Chanticleers surge ahead by nearly 10 points in the first set. Chadron didn’t wilt away, though, as it flashed its power at the net while whittling the deficit down to just 22-21. Ord still barely led at 23-22 and 24-23 before finally prevailing on a kill.
“I was proud of our kids for fighting through it and giving ourselves a chance at the end,,” Matt said.
Chadron looked to be on its way to tying the match in game two, building a 20-12 lead. But Ord put together a 12-4 flurry to even the set at 24-24. The game was tied again at 25-25 and 26-26 before the Chanticleers scored the final two points for the victory.
“It was a huge momentum loss on our part,” Nobiling said.
Matt credited Ord’s defense for helping it rally in the second game.
“They had some big blocks, and they had some nice digs and were able to get attacks out of it, and we didn’t do a real great job at the net at the end of that second set,” he said.
Ball control, he added, was also a key factor in the match.
“We just were a little bit inconsistent with our ball control, and they picked up their ball control a little bit,” he said. “That was the name of the game right there. They were getting good swings on the ball, and we were being limited to one option most of the time. When we passed the ball and had plenty of options, we did good things.”
Matt said his players did their best to keep their heads up and overcome that heartbreaking second set.
“They came off the court, and they didn’t have any bad looks in their eyes or anything like that. I think it was more a case of, ‘OK, we can do this.’ But then I think they tried to do too much instead of just relaxing and letting the game come to them,” he said.
Ord coach Wendy Alexander, whose team is trying to win the school’s first state volleyball championship since 2007, said she was pleased with her team’s play overall.
“We came out in set one, and I thought we played a very clean match,” she said. “I think we only had three unforced errors. Chadron has a very powerful offense, but we played clean, we played consistent, and I think that was the difference in set one.
“In set two our offense slowed down, [but] we had kind of a momentum turn from a great dig that turned out to be a kill. And then our offense sped up – everyone had a little bit more fire – and we were able to come back.
“In set three I felt like we did a better job of blocking at the net – Chadron did an excellent job of blocking in set one and the first part of set two. And when we sped our offense up, we were able to get some hitters in some one on one situations, and when we get that we feel like those are situations we can win.”
Alexander said she was impressed with Chadron’s performance, especially in the front row.
“I think Chadron’s front row, at any point, is as good as any front row we’ve played against,” she said. “Jadyn McCartney is a smart ball player. She hits at excellent angles and does a nice job of staying composed all the time on the court. ... They’ve got a lot of big, strong athletes. We felt like comparing team for team, we’re a pretty strong, physical team across the net, but I thought Chadron was just as strong and physical coming into this match.”
McCartney led Chadron in kills with 12, and she also had 12 digs. Nobiling collected a team-high 15 digs and recorded five kills. Chandler Hageman finished with 10 kills, seven blocks, and two ace serves, and Jayden Garrett had 30 set assists. Teagan Westemeier had three kills and nine digs.
Among Ord’s statistical leaders was Andrea Carson with 13 kills. Kathryn Grint had seven kills, and Cora Svoboda had four ace blocks and three kills.