LINCOLN — Describing Omaha Skutt’s victory over Hastings as “dominant” would rank as a vast understatement.
The No. 1-rated SkyHawks surged to a 21-0 first-set lead and carried on for a 25-2, 25-5, 25-6 first-round win over the No. 8 Tigers Thursday in the Class B state tournament at Pinnacle Bank Arena. In the process, Omaha Skutt (32-5) set state-tournament records in the rally-scoring era for fewest points allowed in both a set (two) and a match (13).
As the four-time defending state champs in Class B, Skutt is well-known for its powerful hitting attack. However, SkyHawks coach Renee Saunders said that her team’s record defensive effort was no accident.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense and our block,” Saunders said. “We work really hard on it — I’d say we work just as much on those things as we do attack and serve.
“We train really hard a lot in hopes that when it gets to game time, we do the little things right and the rest flows our direction.”
Megan Skovsende (13 digs), Breanna Skala (12) and Lauren Diederich (10) led Skutt’s defense. The SkyHawks also had six blocks, paced by Allison Gray’s two.
Lindsay Krause had 13 kills and Cameron Cartwright added 10 kills as Skutt recorded a 44-9 advantage in kills. Gray finished with 39 assists for the SkyHawks, who closed the second set with an 11-0 run and raced to an 18-4 advantage in set three.
“I don’t think we could’ve played a better (all-around) game,” Saunders said. “We served well, we passed well (and) we might have had a record hitting efficiency.
“Everybody did their job really well and that’s what we’ve been focusing on. We came out ready to play.”
Skovsende opened the match by serving 21 consecutive points, including a pair of aces. When the Tigers (21-12) finally broke through with their first point on a kill by Haley Schram, the Hastings fans erupted in applause.
Hastings coach Dave Hepner said the SkyHawks were so good Thursday that about all he and his team could do was smile at times.
“In that first set, nothing went right for us,” Hepner said. “Every time we’d finally get a pass, we’d hit it right into a block or the set would be tight or the set would be too far off or the attack would go right into their hands.
“Everything that could go wrong did for us in that first set. That’s something that happens when you haven’t been here a lot. It’s a big atmosphere.”
Schram finished with four kills to lead Hastings. Dacey Sealey recorded nine assists and Carley Norlen had eight digs for the Tigers.
“They four-time (defending) state champs for a reason,” Hepner said. “They have every position solid — they don’t have any weaknesses that you can really exploit, even when you think you can. Those girls make plays. They’ve been here and they understand what to do.”
Hepner said the Tigers struggled with serve-receive. Skutt finished with 10 aces, including five by Skovsende.
“We just didn’t adjust very well to the short ball and they all can serve it short,” Hepner said. “They can all drop it inside the 10-foot line and we struggled with that all match.”
Hastings was making its first appearance in the state tournament since 2008.
“I’m proud of the girls and I’m proud that they got here,” Hepner said. “I would have liked to have seen us perform a little bit better, but I think every coach says that when they lose. We were playing one of the best teams for a reason — Skutt earned it and they look like they’re going to continue on.”
Skutt advanced to play in Friday’s 5 p.m. semifinal at PBA. The SkyHawks have won nine straight matches and are undefeated against Class B opponents this season.
“Our goal every year is to peak at this time and play our best volleyball the last match of the season,” Saunders said. “Whether that’s Thursday, Friday or Saturday, we want to be playing our best, win or lose.
“Hopefully, we’re playing our best volleyball right now, but it’s one game at a time.”