BELLVUE, NEB-Class 2A second-ranked Western Christian always uses the Bellevue West volleyball tournament in Bellevue, Nebraska, as an early-season measuring stick to figure out what to work on for the rest of the regular season.
This season was no different as the Wolfpack were tested once again against some of Nebraska’s best high school volleyball teams and finished with a 3-3 record for the weekend.
“We know going down there that this is going to be the toughest tournament we play in. But we have to play against those top-level teams because it gives us a great measuring stick on what we need to work on early in the season,” said Western Christian coach Tammi Veerbeek. “We went 3-3, which is exactly how we finished the last three years and we were state champions (in Class 2A).”
The first match of the tournament was played Friday, Sept. 1, against Omaha-Westside and the Wolfpack came away with a convincing 25-13 victory in set one, before holding off the Warriors for a 25-23 decision in set two for the sweep. Ashtyn Veerbeek led the offense with 11 kills, Jessi De Jager had seven, Madison Hofman had six and Cori De Jong had five. Olivia Granstra passed for 19 assists while second setter, Tori Wynja, had 10 assists. On defense, Chandler Schemper grabbed 13 digs, Hofman plucked 10, Wynja had nine, Emma Bousema had eight and Granstra had eight. Veerbeek got in on five blocks. De Jong, Granstra and Wynja each had two blocks.
On the service line, Bousema went 8-for-9 with one ace, Hofman went 11-for-13 with no aces, Schemper went 9-for-9 with no aces, Avery Van Kley went 8-for-8 with two aces and Wynja went 6-for-6 with two aces.
The second match of pool play Friday, Sept. 1, was pegged against Omaha-Burke and Western Christian had to battle for every point in the 25-22, 25-23 sweep.
“It was a highly-intense battle and we knew we had to win that match because Marion (Omaha-Marion the third match of pool play) is the No. 1-ranked team in the state (of Nebraska) and we knew we were going to have our hands full. So we had to beat Burke if we wanted to reach our goal and get out of pool play and get to the championship round Saturday,” coach Veerbeek said.
The coach was pleased her team lived up to the task.
“It was a back-and-forth contested match. Burke is a scrappy team. They dug the ball well and I was just super proud as a coach,” the coach said. “With a young team and a lot of newcomers to be able to pull out those wins was awesome.”
De Jager led the offense with nine kills, Ashtyn Veerbeek chipped in with nine and De Jong had four. Granstra passed for 11 assists and Wynja had seven. On defense, Schemper plucked 13 digs, Granstra had eight, Van Kley had seven, Bousema had seven and Wynja had six. De Jager got in on five blocks.
On the service line, Schemper went 12-of-13 with two aces, Wynja went 5-of-6 with two aces, Granstra 8-for-8 with one ace, Bousema 7-for-7 with one ace, Van Kley 7-for-7 with no aces and Wynja 5-for-6 with two aces.
The Wolfpack then had the tough task of going up against top-ranked Marion to end the day Friday, Sept. 1. Western Christian hung with the top-rated team in set one, only falling 25-19, but could not get anything going in set two and were defeated 25-11 for the sweep.
“The first set was great. Marion has two Division I (NCAA Division I) recruits and we battled with them. I was just so happy to see that we could battle against the best in Nebraska,” coach Veerbeek said. “Game two was when our inexperience came in. We weren’t able to maintain that focus, they (Marion) jumped out and were very aggressive and our passing broke down. When our passing breaks down we just can’t get any offense and Marion is too good a team to be giving easy balls to.”
Ashtyn Veerbeek was the offensive leader with eight kills, De Jong had four. Granstra dished out seven assists and Wynja had five. Defensively, Hofman had 10 digs, Bousema had seven, Wynja had six and Granstra had five. Veerbeek got in on four blocks.
On the service line, Hofman went 8-for-9 with one ace, Van Kley went 7-for-7 with no aces and Wynja went 4-for-4 with one ace.
This was also the first night for the new 6-2 offense Coach Veerbeek is running this season and the coach felt the two setters did well for their first three matches of the 2017 season.
“They’re both sophomores and we’re asking a lot out of our setters,” Coach Veerbeek said. “They’re setting, they’re also hitting and they’re dropping back on serve-receive patterns. They’re doing a lot more than just setting. So they’re responsible for a lot, but I thought they handled it.”
The championship bracket began Saturday, Sept. 2, with Papillion-La Vista. The Wolfpack dropped game one but came back in game two to force a deciding game three but fell in that rubber set 25-12.
“We lost the first one against Papillion-La Vista who is very talented, but I thought we came out a bit flat in that game. I really thought if we brought our best (game) we probably could have taken them,” coach Veerbeek said. “But we just weren’t playing at the top of our game.”
Ashtyn Veerbeek led the offense with 11 kills, De Jager had seven and De Jong had four. Granstra dished out 15 assists and Wynja passed out eight. Defensively, Bousema got in on 15 digs, Wynja had 12, Granstra had 10, Hofman had 10, Schemper had nine and Van Kley had nine. At the net, De Jager grabbed two blocks and Veerbeek had two blocks.
On the service line, Wynja went 11-for-11 with two aces, Van Kley went 12-for-12 with two aces, Hofman 8-for-9 with one ace, Schemper 9-for-9 with no aces, Bousema 7-for-7 with no aces and Granstra 5-for-6 with no aces.
The defeat gave Western Christian some added pressure to keep its tournament hopes alive against Millard South in match two Saturday, Sept. 2.
“Then we were faced with an elimination match versus Millard South. If we would have lost that match we would have been done. I told the girls that if we don’t win this match we go home,” coach Veerbeek noted.
The Wolfpack took game one, before Millard South took game two to force a game three. Once again it was a back-and-forth game, but Millard South took enough of a lead to get two chances at match point with the score at 24-22. But Western Christian got a sideout off a De Jager kill and the final 3 points of the match on a Wynja tip kill, an Ashtyn Veerbeek block and tip kill.
“That was a back-and-forth match of runs. We would have a 7-point lead and then they would come back on us with a run of too many points,” coach Veerbeek said. “But what I was most pleased with was how we came back in game three. We scored 4 points in a row with our backs against the wall and possibly being eliminated from the tournament. For a young squad to come back and win it like that was a big highlight of the weekend.”
Ashtyn Veerbeek led the attackers with 11 kills, De Jager had seven and De Jong had five. Granstra passed for 16 assists with Wynja dishing out 11. Defensively, Schemper had 15 digs, Bousema had nine digs, Hofman had eight, Van Kley had eight, Granstra had seven and Wynja plucked five. Veerbeek had five blocks at the net with Wynja getting in on three blocks.
On the service line, Wynja went 13-for-14 with one ace, Schemper 9-for-10 with one ace, Van Kley 9-for-10 with no aces, Bousema 16-for-17 with no aces and Hofman 7-of-9 with no aces.
The final match of the Labor Day weekend was against a defending state champion in Nebraska, Millard North, and the Wolfpack were defeated 25-16, 25-19. Ashtyn Veerbeek led the offense with 10 kills, De Jager had eight. Wynja dished out 10 assists and Granstra passed for eight. Defensively, Bousema had eight digs, Hofman had seven, Madison Byl had five. Veerbeek grabbed three blocks.
On the service line, Bousema went 9-for-10 with two aces, Wynja 5-for-6 with one ace, Granstra 5-for-5 with no aces and Hofman 4-for-4 with no aces.
This was the third consecutive year Western Christian went 3-3 in this tournament. After winning two state titles in Class 2A, the Wolfpack are hopeful the Bellevue tournament will lead to another state championship, but do not want to look that far ahead yet.
“We kind of talked about that and the last two years it’s worked out that way. To me that’s more ironic. I was just happy we came out with three wins,” coach Veerbeek said. “If you go down there and not play your best, you may not win a match. That’s the reality of that tournament. We played great volleyball against Division I players and I’ll be glad to play that tournament every weekend because it made us a better volleyball team. Hopefully that experience will carry over into the Sioux County Tournament this Saturday (Sept. 9).