The Crofton volleyball team kept its season alive with two wins in the Class C-2 sub-district 8 tournament at O’Neill Monday night.
“We had heart, want and desire tonight,” said Crofton coach Bailey Kuchta. “You could definitely see it in their eyes that they wanted it tonight. We played well and played the best blocking-game we ever have in a long time. That really helped shut some hitters down and put us on top.”
The Lady Warriors swept both West Holt and Creighton to advance to the district title match.
In the final match of the evening, Crofton and Creighton battled it out for three sets to determine who plays for a district title Saturday.
“In that first set, we made a lot of errors on our side,” said Creighton coach Tracy Tyler. “I told them in one of our timeouts, if we clean up those errors, we’ll definitely be able to play with Crofton. In the second set, we were down by quite a few points, but what I found out with Creighton volleyball is they won’t quit and they keep battling. In the third, we started ahead, but we just couldn’t do it. I thought Crofton moved the ball well. Their setters did a really good job of moving the ball to all three of their hitters.”
The Lady Warriors claimed the early momentum with a 25-16 set win in the first.
A 4-1 run, 5-1 run and 4-1 run at the end of the set proved to the difference for Crofton to capture the opening set.
The Lady Warriors opened the second set with a 9-1 lead, but the Lady Bulldogs answered with a 9-1 run of their own to knot the set at 12.
A 4-0 run capped by Danielle Steffen's ace put Crofton back ahead.
Creighton once again rallied and cut the deficit to two, but a Danielle Steffen kill and Creighton error won the set for the Lady Warriors, 25-21, and gave Crofton an all important 2-0 lead.
“One of our goals in the game was to keep our composure,” Kuchta said. “They did a really good job. I told them this is a good team, they’re going to have really good kills, good hits and good blocks. We have to shake it off and go to the next play. We did that really well tonight and I’m proud of them.”
The Lady Bulldogs gave one last ditch effort to keep their season alive, but Crofton held on to win the last set, 25-22, on a Danielle Steffen kill.
“We always thought in practice how bad we wanted to beat Creighton,” said Crofton junior Ryah Ostermeyer. “That was our goal, we did and we’re filled with joy. I don’t know how to explain, I’m speechless.”
Crofton opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over West Holt.
“It was back and forth,” Kuchta said. “We weren’t playing our best, but we were still there and hung in there. Give them (West Holt) props. I think we were focused on the next game, but we finished it. We used that and what they needed to work on in that game to get out there little chinks and came out strong against Creighton.”
The Lady Warriors struggled to start the match, falling behind, 15-7.
An 8-2 run cut the deficit to three thanks to six kills by five different Crofton players.
Trailing 20-15, Crofton ended the set with a 10-2 run to complete the comeback.
“We were kind of behind, but we knew this was make or break,” said Crofton senior Anna Steffen. “We knew it was our last go around and we had to give it our all. We came out fighting and came out with a win in that set. We played fearless, had lots of energy, believed in each other and had a lot of fun. We made a lot of memories and it was really fun to beat them in three (sets).”
After starting the second set in a 5-0 hole, the Lady Warriors answered with a 9-2 run capped by an Anna Steffen kill.
Tied at 11, Crofton scored eight unanswered points led by three kills by Danielle Steffen during the run.
The Lady Warriors ended the set with a 5-1 run and captured the set on Anna Steffen's kill.
After a block by Anna Albrecht tied the third set at 16, Crofton ended the set on a 9-3 run to win the set, 25-19, and the match.
Creighton also swept its first-round opponent, with a three-set victory over Ainsworth.
“I thought Ainsworth came out and played really,” Tyler said. “We were maybe a little hesitant and didn’t play the best, but we didn’t quit and we kept fighting throughout the whole match.”
Trailing 12-10 in the opening set, Creighton went on a 6-0 run to take a 16-12 lead.
An 8-2 run towards the end of the set gave the Lady Bulldogs a comfortable lead and they won the set, 25-20.
A hot start propelled the Creighton to a 25-14 win in set two. A 6-0 run to start the set and 10-0 run gave the Lady Bulldogs the early momentum and sealed the set.
Creighton's potent one-two senior punch of Ashtyn Fritz and Kirsten Adams led the Lady Bulldogs to a 25-21 set win, and a spot on the sub-district finals.
Fritz record five of her seven kills during a crucial 9-2 run. Adams collected six kills and two aces in the third set.
In two combined matches for Crofton, Anna Steffen accumulated 18 kills, five blocks,16 digs and 36 assists, Danielle Steffen tallied 17 kills, two blocks and 28 digs, Hannah VanHeek contributed 15 kills, two blocks and 24 digs, Ostermeyer collected 16 kills and five blocks, Sanger recorded five aces and 67 digs and Taylor Schieffer added 12 digs and 38 assists.
“It has clicked finally,” Ostermeyer said. “It is incredible right now. We are so close to state and we can do it.”
Fritz led the Lady Bulldogs with 28 kills and 24 digs in two combined matches. Adams had 24 kills, three blocks and 16 digs, Maycee Zimmerer accounted for six kills, three blocks, 17 digs and 28 assists, Sierra Nielsen pitched in four blocks and Clarissa Becker tallied12 digs and two aces
Creighton ends its season with a 15-13 record. Seniors Fritz, Adams, Sloane Fuchtman, Hannah Lemke and Becker each played their final match for the Lady Bulldogs.
“I got a great group of five seniors that are definitely going to be missed next year,” Tyler said. “They always came to practice, worked hard, had a great work ethic and never quit. They always gave everything they had out on the court and they’ll definitely be missed.”
Crofton (13-14) has to wait to see who its opponent will be in the district championship match Saturday.
“We’ve really bonded a lot over these last couple of months,” Anna Steffen said. “I’m best friends with some of the girls and we all work really hard to put our whole heart into this sport. We love it, we play with our whole heart, we fight hard and we’re ready for the district finals and we’re ready for state.”
A win in the district finals clinches a spot in the state tournament for the Lady Warriors for the first time under Kuchta.
“I told them it’s just one step towards it and we got one more step (to make state),” Kuchta concluded. “We have to come focus in practice this week and keep our momentum. We have to keep our effort and our hustle. Those are things that are really going to help us build off of last game. They can do it and they know they can, but they have to do the little things right first.”