Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Eagles take third at state

GRAND ISLAND—Playing in the semi-finals of the state volleyball tournament is reason enough for any coach to dress up.

Lynne Johnson chose the comfort of a polo shirt on the bench all season until it came time for sub-district play. Then she stepped into dress-up clothes.

A long vest or long jacket saw Johnson and the Eagles through the post-season games and into the Class D-2 state semi-finals.

It’s not that Johnson is superstitious.

“If I thought what I wear on the bench had any control over how they played on the court, I’d have worn that every game this season,” the coach said.

But in a rush for an early-morning game against Howells Friday morning, Johnson’s dress clothes got locked on the bus.

Rather than hassle with it, she put on the same coaching shirt she’s worn for several games this year.

“You have no idea how many people said something to me about the long jacket,” she said, “as if that had anything to do with the outcome of the game.”

Brady landed in the semi-finals of the state tournament after defeating Wynot in the first round 25-19, 25-18, 20-25, 25-15.

“You know, I don’t think there were many jitters or anything like that,” Johnson said. “The girls knew from the start they had a job to do and they got it done.”

She blamed the third-set loss on a passing breakdown.

“You play and you play and sometimes the passing starts to lose a little,” Johnson said. “We had a little bit of a letdown but I think the girls knew they were still in charge.”

The win pushed Brady into the second round to face the No. 1 rated Howells Bobcats.

“I don’t think their ranking phased the girls,” Johnson said. “Honestly, I think the girls have pretty much the same outlook no matter who we play. We knew we had to go out and play our game, do what we do best.”

The match was tight the whole way as the teams matched each other point for point throughout.

“It felt like it could have been the championship game,” Johnson said. “The girls played like it was. They were going full speed every play, doing everything they could to not let a ball drop.

But in the end, Howells was two points better as the Bobcats advanced with a 20-25, 25-20, 25-22, 20-25, 15-13 victory.

“Even the girls said when you look at the teams playing at state, you see them as the giants of volleyball,” Johnson said. “We were there among the giants and we played with the best of them.”

Coming back for the consolation game could have been a downer for the girls, especially the seniors playing in their last high school match.

But Johnson said the three seniors—Maggie Burke, Megan Polt and Courtney Widick—led the Eagles with pride and poise, determined to end on a positive note.

Brady took it to the Broncos winning 28-26, 25-21, 25-20.

“I think they really wanted to knock it out of the park,” Johnson said, “but I also know they were a little tired emotionally and physically.”

The third-place trophy and medals capped off what Johnson called a surreal season that finished with a 27-5 record and a No. 2 state ranking by the Omaha World-Herald.

“I think all of the girls understand that this kind of season doesn’t come along very often,” she said. “It’s more about the experience and the relationships than it is the trophies. It’s just been a great year all the way around.”

Losing the three seniors who have been four-year starters will leave a hole in the Eagle volleyball team but Johnson said the program is to the point where the team is able to replenish rather than rebuild.

“Those seniors have been a huge part of this team and they each offered so much,” the coach said. “At the same time, we’re excited to bring back so many experienced kids who know where hard work will take you.”

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