GRAND ISLAND — Kearney Catholic learned its lesson against Grand Island Central Catholic.
The last time the two teams played, on Sept. 29, the Class C-1, No. 4-rated Stars saw a 19-10 lead in the first set evaporate as the No. 3 Crusaders put together the sweep.
On Saturday, after getting a big lead, the Stars (26-3) kept on the attack and didn’t let up in the Centennial Conference Tournament final, beating the Crusaders 25-16, 18-25, 25-17 at GICC.
It was the second loss of the season for the Crusaders and the first-ever Centennial Conference Tournament Championship for KCHS in its short tenure in the conference. The Stars joined the conference in 2017.
Ashley Keck sparked KCHS with nine of her team-high 12 kills in the opening set to give the Stars an 18-10 lead and never allowed GICC to get back into the set.
“We had a better mentality tonight when we had the lead. You can’t go soft on GICC and that’s what happened the last time we played them,” KCHS coach Kris Conner said. “They pass and hit too well and I think that was the best defensive game we’ve played all season and we played with heart. The girls wanted to win.”
Ashlyn Wischmeier had eight kills to balance the Stars’ attack. Jill Collins, Bailey Spangler and setter Sydney Conner all had six kills. Conner dished out 26 assists.
“Kearney Catholic just played outstanding and their serve was so tough that it made it difficult on our passers,” GICC coach Sharon Zavala said. “Their setter is very good with a lot of great attackers. They are just a great, well-balanced team.”
The Stars jumped out of the gates in the second set and built a 13-10 lead. But Alyssa Wilson came off the bench and served a 9-0 run to give GICC a 19-13 lead and the Crusaders never looked back.
But just like the first set, KCHS got out to a big lead in the third set and won going away.
Evan Glade led the Crusaders with 15 kills, while Chloe Cloud had 10 kills. Setter Carolyn Maser had 26 assists.
The Stars’ road to the title wasn’t easy.
The Stars went three sets in four of the five matches during the two-day tournament, including a 25-13, 19-25, 25-15 win over Columbus Scotus before their match with GICC.
“There are a lot of good teams. There’s no easy matches,” Kris Conner said. “I’m just super proud of the girls of the way they stepped up in the final.
“It was nice to see the girls put it together against some tough teams.”
Keck had 13 kills in the match with Scotus, while Wischmeier had eight. Josie Denney had three ace serves.
The Stars completed pool play Saturday morning with a 25-16, 25-12 win over Concordia. Keck had eight kills in that match while Collins had six. Ella Bruggeman served for four aces and Kamryn David had three aces.
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