By Jan Schultz
The Imperial Republican
It was hard not to see the Lady Longhorn volleyball team qualify for last week’s state tournament, after having one of the best seasons on record.
Finishing with a 26-3 season is the best finish for a Chase County team in Jodie Schuller’s near 20 years as a coach here.
Even after losing to state-qualifier Chadron in the subdistrict tournament first round, it may have seemed like the Lady Longhorns would have a shot as a wild card qualifier.
But not this year.
The two wild card qualifying teams are determined by how high they are in the NSAA point standings, and at No. 11 after the Chadron loss, Chase County was too far back for that possibility.
It comes down to a number of factors on how the point standings are figured, but a big one affecting Chase County this year were the records of their opponents.
And, Chase County wasn’t alone in those Class C1 schools with great records who didn’t get to state.
Count among the other nonqualifying schools: Stanton, at 32-2 and Ord at 25-6.
Schuller said it would be worth the effort to try to get more Class C1 and B schools on their schedule. Size of the schools a team plays also factor into the figuring of points.
Overall, Schuller said she wouldn’t change a thing about the 2014 season.
“I’d do it all over again. It just went so fast,” she said.
“It was just an awesome season.”
In addition to the 26-3 record, Chase County won the SPVA Conference Tournament for the first time in eight years, and also won both the McCook and Sutherland tournaments.
Their only losses before the subdistricts were to Holdrege and Gothenburg.
Schuller said maybe she and the team can now sit back and dissect the season and realize all the success they had.
Much of that success came from a strong senior class of five players on the team, she said.
“They were a big part of the team. Our younger kids are going to have big shoes to fill,” she said.
MaKenna Ketter was a dominating force on offense. She set a new school record for career kills, hitting the 890 mark her four years on the team (2011-14). She chalked up more than a third of them this season alone.
Ketter broke the old record of 861 held by Shannon Liewer (2008-11).
Ketter also led the team in ace serves with 36.
Schuller said seniors Paige Spady and Valeria Cervantes shined as team leaders this season, on and off the court.
In addition, Spady was the team’s No. 2 hitter with 142 kills this season. Cervantes was fourth with 56.
Castle ranked No. 3 at the net for kills with 97 this season. She was also a force in the back row with 271 digs.
Newcomer Taylar Nickless stepped in “and gave us a lot of enthusiasm on the court,” she said. She also added 33 kills and 17 ace serves.
In other season stats, libero Cheyanne Kuhlmann led the team on digs with 511, while setter Taylin McNair contributed 580 set assists for the season.
Looking to 2015, Kuhlmann and McNair will be back in key positions, but Schuller said they will have to build their hitting game with the loss of the seniors, who dominated those stats this year.
She said there is some experience back at the net and there is time to develop and grow with some promising underclassmen. She’ll also be anxious to see what additions come out of this year’s eighth grade class.
She’s hopeful for that noting the Chase County JV and C teams both had undefeated seasons this year.
“We have a nice handful of girls back who may surprise us but it will also take work in the summer,” Schuller said.
Team captains named
Members of the team selected seniors Cervantes and Spady as their honorary team captains for 2014.
Coach Schuller said the vote was taken after the season concluded.
The team is asked to select those players for the honor who are leaders on and off the court, with an emphasis on “off the court,” she said.
Schuller said her ideal for the honorary team captains are those who both “lift the other players up and get them going, a positive leader.”
Both Spady and Cervantes were varsity starters this season and key members of the Lady Longhorn team that finished the season at 26-3.