No team has won more matches through the first week and a half of the high school volleyball season in Nebraska than Bennington.
At 9-0, the Badgers are sitting atop the Class B standings, and they haven’t dropped a set this season. Bennington swept Norris at home on Thursday then went 4-0 against four Class A teams — Millard West, Lincoln North Star, Elkhorn South and Fremont — to claim the Millard West Tournament title on Saturday.
“To be 5-0 this week was not something I anticipated,” Bennington coach Lindsay Grant said. “I told them I’m extremely proud of them. I put us in this tournament to push us, to exploit some of our weaknesses. Yes, we have lots of things to work on right now. But for them to be able to weather all the storms that were thrown at us, I’m extremely proud of them.”
Grant said the Badgers showed grit and resiliency in winning four matches in seven and a half hours.
Sophomore outside hitter Hayden Liebsack did the heavy lifting for the Bennington offense, averaging 5.0 kills per set on .320 hitting on the day with 11 aces, showing off a powerful arm both at the net and from the service line.
Senior libero and Nebraska commit Olivia Mauch led the defense, averaging 5.9 digs per set with three aces with pin-point passing all day.
The Badgers went 4-0 with 4 sweeps over Class A schools and Mauch averaged 5.9 digs per set while passing dimes all day. pic.twitter.com/KbnpiHSHOz
— Jacob Padilla (@JacobPadilla_) September 3, 2023
“I think we’ve been working really hard in practices and it’s showing on the court,” Mauch said of the team’s hot start to the season. “We all just get along and it’s easy to play with them.”
The Millard West title caps an unforgettable month for Mauch.
On August 11, Mauch helped the USA Volleyball U19 team capture gold at the World Championship, capping a 9-0 run through th tournament with a 3-2 come-from-behind win against Turkey. Mauch had 13 digs in the gold medal match and averaged 3.6 digs per set in the eight matches in which she wore the libero jersey, and she said it still doesn’t feel real.
In addition to representing the United States, Mach also got a chance to play with her future teammates as fellow 2024 Nebraska commit Ayden Ames and 2025 commits Campbell Flynn and Teraya Sigler were also on the team.
“I think it’s huge, being able to be around them and get used to them, and we had a lot of fun,” Mauch said. “First of all, they’re great players, so fun to be around. I’m excited for the next next four or five years.”
Then Much got a chance to reunite with her future teammates in Lincoln on Wednesday as they were among the world-record-setting 92,003 who attended Volleyball Day in Nebraska at Memorial Stadium.
“It was so cool,” Mauch said. “I hope they do it again so I can be a part of it. I was down there with all of my class recruits and and some of the ‘25s. I love the class that’s coming up and my class. It was fun to get to hang out with them and watch Husker volleyball.”
Mauch said it was a good feeling to see the kind of support the Huskers receive and she can’t wait to be a part of it. That won’t come until next year, however. Right now she’s focused on the Badgers and being as consistent as she can, both in her play and in her attitude and energy on the court.
“She’s our anchor,” Grant said. “She is a fantastic player, but she’s also a fantastic person. For her to be able to have all of their backs means something to them, and for them to feel confident that she has their backs always, that means something as well.”
Last year, Bennington went 28-8 and fell in the state semifinals to eventual runner-up Elkhorn North. This year, the goal is to go all the way, and Mauch believes the Badgers have what it will take to get there.