LINCOLN – Making its first state tournament appearance since 2000, it took Broken Bow a little while to get its jitters out Thursday at Lincoln North Star.
But once the Indians did, they made sure that their first trip to state in 19 years will be an extended one.
Class C-1 No. 4-rated Broken Bow downed No. 6 Wayne 22-25, 25-20, 25-8, 25-18 to advance to Friday’s 1 p.m. semifinal at Pinnacle Bank Arena against No. 1 St. Paul.
“We knew that we came down here to do something special, and we weren’t going to give up (after the first set),” said Indians senior outside hitter Majesta Valasek, who put down 24 kills. “We weren’t playing like ourselves, and we needed to get our heads back in it. We were really excited to be here. We just needed to get some nerves out, and then we were really excited for the next three sets.”
Wayne’s Lauren Pick put down eight of her match-high 27 kills in the first set to help the Blue Devils snap a streak of 10 straight sets lost in the state tournament that dated back to 2002.
But the Indians (33-2) didn’t let them win a second.
“I think we just got some of our jitters out,” Broken Bow coach Skylar Morris said. “None of these girls have never been in a situation like this at a state tournament, so I think once we were able to calm down, we saw what they were trying to do to us. You could kind of see that at the end of that first set, and then I think it just carried over into the second set.”
After winning the second, Broken Bow simply dominated the third. After falling behind 2-0, the Indians rattled off a 10-0 run with Valasek posting five kills in a span of six points.
“We really developed our trust in that third set because we knew that we had to get that set to get to PBA (Pinnacle Bank Arena),” Valasek said. “We were really locked in and ready for it.”
Broken Bow took what worked in the second set and amplified it.
“We go the momentum coming off the second set, and we saw what was going to work on their defense,” Morris said. “They weren’t getting up a very good block on us, so we were able to dominate that.”
Wayne (29-6) couldn’t stop things from snowballing in the third.
“That’s one of those where you make an error and it keeps snowballing and you can’t get out of it,” coach Traci Krusemark said. “You just hope that for the last few points you can score a couple to get some momentum heading into the fourth. I thought the fourth we showed some grit.”
She agreed with Morris that Wayne’s inability to block was a difference-maker in the final three sets.
“I felt like we came out tough and strong in the first set,” Krusemark said. “I don’t want to say that we hung back in the second set, but I thought that Broken Bow did a better job of swinging at us. In the first one they didn’t give us too many tough balls to play, but from then on, they just hit every ball.”
After Wayne scored the first point in the fourth, Broken Bow never trailed again. Valasek added seven more kills in that set.
“You could see that first set she didn’t have very much,” Morris said. “Once we were able to get her to relax a little bit and get a couple big hits, she was dominant.”
Kya Scott and Lindsay Schauda both added 11 kills for the Indians, who received 55 set assists from Kailyn Scott.
How big a step was it for Broken Bow’s program to not go one-and-done in its first state appearance in nearly two decades?
“Huge. Huge,” Morris said. “We were six years ago 12-20. To be at the state tournament seven years later is pretty huge.”