Bellevue West Invitational

Papillion-La Vista South Outlasts Omaha Skutt to Claim Bellevue West Invitational Title


Seven preseason top-10 Class A teams and the top two Class B squads were among the field for the 42nd annual Bellevue West Invitational this weekend, but it was reigning Class A champion Papillion-La Vista South who emerged victorious on Saturday.

The Titans went 3-0 in pool play on Friday then swept Millard North and Papillion-La Vista to advance to the final, where they faced reigning Class B champion Omaha Skutt.

Skutt provided a much stiffer test, but a pair of freshmen provided a big boost as the Titans grounded the SkyHawks 2-1 (25-13, 27-29, 25-22) in the Thunderdome.

“It’s always exciting to get to play Skutt and see just the talent that they have,” Papio South coach Katie Tarman said. “They gave us a fight. We are a talented group. We have a big, long bench right; now we have 17 kids on this team and any one of them could step in and play. So it was a lot of different lineups that we were trying to get in, and I think that these girls just kind of figured out that they’re not going to rely on just talent alone.”

Papio South dominated the first set as the SkyHawks struggled to find a way around the Titans’ big block. Papillion-La Vista South recorded six stuffs in the first set alone as the Titans nearly doubled up the SkyHawks in points.

“Our goal is three [blocks], so we surpassed that and that’s a big deal for us,” Tarman said. “That’s a big deal. We had a freshman step in and she’s pretty special. So it’s an exciting time for us.”

The second set was much tighter throughout as Skutt settled in, though Papillion-La Vista South had four different match-point opportunities down the stretch. Skutt responded each time, however, and the SkyHawks surged ahead with a 3-0 run at the end to extend the match to a third game.

Papio South rebounded quickly from the loss and held the lead for much of the way in game three before Skutt rallied to tie it up at 19-all, forcing a Titan timeout. When play resumed, Papio South fired back with a 3-0 run to regain control and the Titans traded points the rest of the way.

The freshman duo of outside hitter Kam Bails and middle blocker Lyric Judson stepped up down the stretch to help the Titans close out the victory, with Bails delivering the match-point kill.

Unofficially, Bails finished with seven kills and at least three blocks while Judson added eight kills without an error and seven blocks.

“They’re both just competitors,” Tarman said. “They’re both just athletes and they’re ready to learn how this program works and implement it however they can. They’re hungry kids and we’re excited to have them in this program. “

Do-it-all junior Charlee Solomon also made a big impact as a setter (20-plus assists), hitter (nine kills, tied for the team lead) and a blocker (three stuffs), making some big plays down the stretch to help the Trans pull out the win.

“She’s a gamer,” Tarman said. “It doesn’t matter where you put her or what you ask of her, she’s going to play the game as hard as she can, and she’s very, very strategic. So it’s nice to have her on the court for that reason.”

For the SkyHawks, junior Abbie Hagedorn and sophomore Addison West shook off slow starts to take over in games two and three. West unofficially finished with a match-high 18 kills and Hagedorn added 17 while hitting nearly .400.

Other notes: 

>> Papillion-La Vista bounced back from the loss to the rival Titans in the semifinals to sweep Gretna and claim third place. 

Senior middle blocker and Oregon commit Mia Tvrdy led the Titans with 10 kills and hit over .500 against the Dragons. She can jump out of the gym and has a heavy arm, and there’s not much the defense can do when setter Reagan Hickey finds her in rhythm at the net.

>> Elkhorn North fell to the Monarchs in the first round of bracket play but claimed fifth place by sweeping both Millard North and Bellevue West.

Freshman middle blocker Reagan Wallraff is a name to know for the Wolves. She led the team with 27 kills while hitting over .300 in the two matches I tracked start to finish, and she added five blocks against the Mustangs.

Senior setter Reese Booth, a Northern Iowa commit, also showcased her toughness, crashing into the score table while chasing after a ball at one point, producing a loud clang that drew concerned looks from her teammates and opponents. However, she popped right back up and was ready for the next point.

>> The best set of the tournament belonged to Gretna and Bellevue West as the Dragons outlasted the host Thunderbirds 37-35 in the third set of the quarterfinals to earn their spot in the semis.

Sophomore pin Elle Heckenlively delivered the match-point kill against Bellevue West and was also impressive in the loss to Papillion-La Vista, finishing with 11 kills on .400 hitting. She displayed a good mix of power and craft, finding different ways to terminate depending on the defensive looks the Monarchs threw her way.

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