ALMOST TO KANSAS, BUT NOT QUITE — Quick. Can you name the school that threw havoc into the Class C-2 point standings last year by beating eventual state champion Superior in the sub-district SEMIFINALS? As a four-seed!?!
If you guessed Thayer Central, which finished 18-16, beat Freeman in the sub-district final and then lost to Stanton in sub-state you are a winner. But, Six Rotations isn’t giving away anything.
We are here to tell you about the “new” Thayer Central.
The one that has six seniors back. The one that worked their tails off in the summer. The one that has a “new” coach — who may have been this teams hero. And, the one that is now 15-0 on the season after a weekend tournament win at the Southern Invite.
Expected? Maybe, says first year coach Cody Dunlap, who played at Thayer Central under long-time coach Kurt Wiedel and led the Titans to a third place finish in Class C-2 as a senior.
“At the beginning of the season, the girls set the goal of getting to state and being competitive at state,” Dunlap said. “That was a major goal for us. And, then about two or three practices in, I asked them, ‘Do you ever think about going undefeated?’
“I am not sure I thought we’d go this long, but this group has a lot of mental toughness.”
So, with everybody back, all the Titans haven’t skipped a beat. All they have had to do was work in freshman setter Jasa Wiedel. Senior Emily Welch takes the majority of swings — her 225 kills is good for eighth in the state.
“Emily is our go-to player, you could say,” said Dunlap. “She knows the game really well. She leads us in digs, too. She can really read balls well.”
But, she has balance behind her.
Fellow seniors Maddison Williams (86 kills), Katelyn Richarson (75) and Maggie Harris (55) all provide an arm that produces offense. Junior libero Sydny Havel and senior defensive specialist Grace Souerdyke are second and third on the team in digs. Junior Steph Meyer also plays in the back row and is fifth on the team with 88 digs.
“We’ve really tried to adjust our tempo this year,” Dunlap said. “We are playing a little faster and for some of the girls it took a little time to adjust. We are getting to the point now where we know we have to play at a high level at all times.”
While most of Dunlap’s team is experienced, the setter running the show is freshman Jasa Wiedel. But, the daughter of former long-time TC coach, has fit right in.
“She has been around the game her whole life and grew up with a volleyball in her hand,” Dunlap said. “She sees the court really well, but sometimes I almost think she is too hard on herself.”
But, October is what the Titans have been dreaming of win or lose to get ready for the postseason They beat Class C-1, No. 7 Malcolm in the Southern finals last week and will play Centennial and at the Johnson County Central Invitational this week before the calendar flips.
Superior and Blue Hill (two and three in the NSAA point standings) await. A possible rematch looms with the Wildcats in the Southern Nebraska Conference tournament. And, the Lincoln Christian Tournament will feature defending C-1 champion and current No. 2 Wahoo in addition to top-ranked Lincoln Lutheran.
“We knew when we put the schedule together that October would be a big month for us,” said Dunlap. “We have some big matches and big tournaments that we think will get us ready to play at the state level.
“We know that practices are going to intensify and that not every game is going to be perfect. But, we want the girls out there and playing confident. Not perfect, but confident.”
This is the fourth in our new weekly feature called Six Rotations, which we hope will bring six different volleyball stories each week. If you have a good one hit us up in our Twitter DMs at either @strivsports or @tony_chapman76. Volleyball in this state is awesome and we need to promote it the best we can.
Rotation Two: Moving Up | Class B Omaha Duchesne won the (mostly) Class A Allison Weston Invitational last weekend. The Cardinals took a 2-1 win over Millard West in the final and are fourth in the overall top-10.
Rotation Three: Mustang Tough | Top-ranked Millard North has been nearly perfect — losing last week to No. 2 Pius — and has done it without Iowa recruit Emma Grunkemeyer. The 6-3 senior is recovering from back surgery but hopes to play before season’s end.
Rotation Four: Warming Up | After a 1-3 start the Waverly Vikings are rolling along, going 11-1 in their last 12 matches.
Rotation Five: Young Guns | Wiedel is not the only freshman setter having success in 2018. Elkhorn South’s Madi Woodin leads the state in set assists and Millard South’s McKayla Fleming is sixth. GICC’s Katie Maser is second in all classes. Full stats.
Rotation Six: Tune In | There will alway be a special spot down here for some big games. Tonight you can catch these ranked teams: unbeaten Thayer Central travels to Centennial (no jinx, please), Millard West hosts Lincoln Southwest, Raymond Central travels to Syracuse and Blue Hill visits Giltner.