Sunday, June 24, 2018
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Eagles are state bound

‘Magical’ match over Vikings sets up district dream.

There wasn’t anything significant about the school lunch, the bus ride or the pre-game preparations.

When Brady took the floor in Lexington to face No. 1-ranked Bertrand in the D2-9 sub-district final on Nov. 1, Eagle coach Lynne Johnson expected a dog fight.

What she got was more like an out-of-body experience.

“It was almost magical,” Johnson said of Brady’s 25-13, 25-19, 25-19 upset over the Vikings. “It’s not very often that you get a great game from every single kid on the floor but we did. I sure wish there was a way to bottle that and duplicate it every night.”

The Eagles opened the match with a 4-0 run and extended their lead to 13-3, holding onto the 10-point advantage the rest of the first set.

“I think Bertrand just didn’t bring it that night,” Johnson said. “And if they did bring it, we stifled it pretty quickly.”

The key, the coach said, was an outstanding 42-of-43 on serve receive.

“Every pass was going right to Maggie (Burke),” Johnson said. “When your setter doesn’t have to work so hard to get to the ball, she can set it up wherever she wants. Our hitters were on and our blockers were on. Everything just clicked.”

The second set was much closer between the state-rated teams, tied at 16-16 before Brady took control.

The same thing happened in the third and deciding set.

“I think we caught Bertrand on their heels and they just didn’t know what to do to stop us,” Johnson said. “It was amazing to see how it can all come together. I think their girls sure learned something about themselves.”

That magical match moved Brady to 24-4 on the season and set up the D-5 district final between the Eagles and Hayes Center Thursday night in North Platte.

“Hayes Center came out really pumped,” Johnson said. “I don’t think we were over-confident at all. I think we just started out a little flat.”

The Cardinals held a slight lead for most of the first set before Brady pulled out a 25-23 victory.

“I wasn’t freaking out. I just didn’t know when we were going to click into gear,” the coach said.

In the second and third sets, the Eagles left no doubt winning 25-11, 25-12.

“We started passing better and we put a double block on their middle hitters,” Johnson said. “After that, they couldn’t get much past us.”

With the win Brady qualifies for the state volleyball tournament for the first time since 1997.

Johnson was an assistant coach for the Eagles that year when they finished the season with a 22-1 record and state runner-up trophy.

She also played on Brady’s only other state-qualifying team as a junior in 1976.

“I’m so excited for these girls,” Johnson said. “They have worked so hard.”

Brady enters the state tournament seeded fifth and will face fourth seed Wynot (24-4) at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at Grand Island Central Catholic.

With 91% serving as a team and three serve receivers averaging a combined 94%, Johnson likes the Eagles’ chances against the Blue Devils.

“I don’t know a whole lot about them,” she said of the Wynot players. “I think they go to their middle hitters a lot, they’re scrappy and they like to tip. Really, though, if our girls bring to the floor what they did against Bertrand, I don’t think anybody can play with us.”

Should the Eagles get past Wynot in the first round, they will play in the semi-finals at 9 a.m. Friday against the winner of the Howells-Hampton match.

The championship is 11 a.m. Saturday at the Heartland Event Center in Grand Island with the consolation for third place at 2 p.m. at Northwest High School.

“We really appreciate the outstanding crowd support from the students and the community,” Johnson said. “I think the girls feed off that and I’m guessing it won’t be any different at state. It will probably be another one of those things where you hope the last one out of town turns off the lights.”