The North Bend Central girls are at it again.
The Tigers are unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in Class C-1. They appear primed to play in Lincoln at the end of the season.
Wait. It’s not March?!
No, not quite. The school’s hope at four straight girls basketball championships will wait until winter.
It’s a different season, different sport, but similar success for North Bend Central. Not known as a volleyball power – and Class C-1 has many of them – the Tigers are crashing the party.
They’re 22-0, ranked No. 1 and a serious state contender.
“We’re having a lot of fun,” said senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Emanuel, who is one of the state’s top hoopsters. “Just to show, yeah, we’re a big basketball school, but also track and volleyball and other sports. Just showing that we want to have fun and be successful.”
If anyone knows what it takes to win a state championship, it’s Emanuel and many of her NBC teammates. Emanuel played a key part in helping the Tigers win a state basketball title as a freshman in 2020. The team also cut down the nets at PBA in ’21 and ’22.
No doubt, basketball success is fueling what’s happening on the volleyball court, coach Amy Sterup says.
“All of the girls that are on the volleyball team, they all play basketball, so they all have been through tradition of three years in a row for basketball,” said Sterup, whose husband Aaron is the girls basketball coach (her father is longtime high school coach Bill Mimick). “They know what it’s like to be at the top and they know that it’s possible.
“When their backs are against the wall, they know how to win a game. That’s a lot.”
The Tigers were 15-13 two seasons ago. They started three freshmen last year and finished 22-10 – the season coming to an end in the district final against eventual state champion Lincoln Lutheran.
There was a lot of optimism after that match, but there was one big question. Who would step up at setter after Madelyn Gaughen graduated?
The answer didn’t leave the Gaughen family – her sister Kathryn.
The sophomore has filled her sister’s shoes well, and the Tigers haven’t missed a beat.
“They just get along so well,” Sterup said. “I enjoy going to practice, and they have fun on and off the court together. They work hard to make sure it’s a team atmosphere.”
Seniors Kaitlyn Emanuel and Brooklyn Shaw, juniors Josie Cleveringa and Cassie Burbach, sophomores Gaughen, Lindsey Emanuel and Jayla Van Ampting, and freshman Lauren Sterup are leading the way on the court. Coach Sterup said the team is getting a boost from assistant coach and NBC grad Hailey Bang, who was a libero when the Tigers last made state in 2017.
But did the coaches and players think they’d start the season 22-0? Sterup admits, that may have been wishful thinking if asked in August. But NBC, which has made state in volleyball only four times, sensed something special.
“We knew that we had a lot of potential, but I don’t think we knew how much,” Emanuel said. “We’re a hard-working group of girls with some drive. We’re a little surprise with how it’s going, but we’re willing to put the time in.”
State basketball banners for the 2020 and ’21 seasons are hanging in the NBC gym (The ’22 one will be up there later this year). Is there room for a volleyball banner?
— NBC Tiger Volleyball (@NBCTigerVball) September 11, 2022
The players are not thinking about that now. The Tigers also play in Class C-1, which is always a grind, so they are not taking their surge of volleyball success for granted.
Still, they’re making time to relish the journey, especially Sterup, who has guided the volleyball program for 18 seasons.
“I have definitely taken some time to just enjoy it,” Sterup said. “Told my assistants we’re just going to go along for the ride and see where it takes us this year.
“I owe it all to these senior girls and all the kids on the team. They’ve worked so well together, and they work hard.”
Basketball can wait. And for a school that has won three straight basketball crowns, that’s saying a lot.