Despite a valiant effort, the Elgin Public/Pope John volleyball team fell to Ewing in three sets, 25-21, 25-14 and 25-17, in the Niobrara Valley Conference tournament semifinals Tuesday at West Holt.
"I was really happy with the way the girls came out," said EPPJ coach Tina Thiele-Blecher. "Ewing is a great team and they have guns coming at all times, from everywhere. Our defense didn't quite adjust as much as I'd hope."
Both squads fought tooth and nail in the opening set, as there was seven ties in the first set. The Lady Wolfpack went on a 4-0 run to tie the match at 21, but the Lady Tigers ended the set with a 4-0 run after Ashley Koenig's kill.
"We came out in that first set on fire and ready to go," Thiele-Blecher recalled. "We played them so tight in the first set, that we wanted it too bad in the second set and could not get anything going our way."
Ewing opened the second set with a 7-1 run and cruised to a nine-point set win.
"At this point and time of the season, everybody is going to bring their A game," said Ewing coach Suz Funk. "You have to be prepared for every point. We knew they were going to get their shots, we just needed to stay focused and handle it the best we could."
Following a Kayce Kallhoff kill that tied the third set at six, the orange and black went on a 13-5 run to claim a 19-11 advantage.
Koenig scored the final three kills for Ewing to win the set, and the match.
Haley Zegers led the Lady Wolfpack with eight kills and six digs. Kaylee Martinsen recorded three kills, an ace, four digs and a block, Allyson Wemhoff tallied three kills, five digs and 10 assists, Kallhoff accounted for four kills and six digs, Harlie Bode added three blocks and Anna Heilhecker pitched in 16 digs.
The Lady Tigers used a balanced attack to seal a spot in the NVC title match. Four different players recorded double-digits points led by Brenna Wagner's 10 kills, four blocks and three aces. Tiana Thramer had nine kills, three blocks and an ace, Sidney Stallbaum accumulated seven kills, two aces and two blocks and Koenig contributed eight kills, a block and an ace.
"We did a better job in the serve and pass game," Funk said. "When you serve aggressively and pass well, you have a lot more options. When we pass the ball, we have a lot of options to use. We kept their blockers going from pin-to-pin and kept them out of their system. It worked for us tonight. Kudos to the girls, they did a great job passing. They were focused and knew what they needed to do."
Ewing (26-1) plays Chambers/Wheeler Central in the NVC championship match Friday at 7:30 p.m. at Niobrara.
"We need to stay focused," Funk added. "We'll watch game film, fine tune on that and watch them (CWC) play. They are a great ball club, so we need to go to school and try to learn on them."
Elgin Public/Pope John (18-11) faces county rival Elkhorn Valley Friday in the NVC third-place match at 6:15 p.m. at Niobrara.
"Tonight is still going to help us for next week (for sub-districts) and next week is a little more important than this week," Thiele-Blecher concluded. "The NVC is tough and I told them to be proud of being here tonight. There's nine other teams practicing tonight instead of playing here. I'm proud for them even being here tonight."