The feeling never gets old for longtime coach Alan VanCura.
The Hastings St. Cecilia coach said that getting the Hawkettes down to the state tournament for the 24th time in school history is still special.
“It never gets old. There is always excitement whenever you get a chance to take a team to the state tournament and this one is no different,” VanCura said. “I’m sure the kids are going to enjoy it.”
The No. 2 Hawkettes, who are the top seed, are looking for title No. 8 starting with a matchup with No. 7 Arcadia-Loup City at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Lincoln Southwest.
One of the reasons for the Hawkettes’ success is their experience. Many of the current players were part of St. Cecilia’s fourth-place team in 2016 when they were freshmen as well as last year’s state tournament team.
But VanCura said it’s the experience from other sports that has helped too. Many of the players were part of the Hawkettes’ state basketball team last March, while many have been state medalists in track and field in the past.
“Experience is always a big plus for us,” VanCura said. “And it’s not just in volleyball. It’s in basketball and in track. It’s not a new experience for them.”
Balance has also been a reason for St. Cecilia’s success. Four-year starter Tori Thomas leads the way with 367 kills and 266 digs, while Katherine Hamburger has chipped in 253 kills and a team-high 60 blocks. Addi Kirkegaard has 153 kills and 45 blocks. Senior Chloe McCauley has 187 kills.
Makenna Asher and Jill Parr have both led the offense with 629 and 341 assists, respectively, while Asher has also pounded down 217 kills on the season. Erin Sheehy leads the defense with 376 digs.
VanCura said the Hawkettes just seem to find a way to get the job done.
“The kids have been relisilient and are competitors,” VanCura said. “We have great senior leadership in Chloe, Makenna and Tori. We also have a team where we don’t have to rely on just one or two people. We’re pretty balanced and we can go to a lot of different options if we need to.”
While the Hawkettes have experience on their side, VanCura said Arcadia-Loup City does as well. The Rebels have nine seniors who have played varsity for three years.
“That’s a team that can be dangerous because they have so much experience because of that,” VanCura said. “They are having a great season. They lost to some good teams and beat a team that beat us (Fillmore Central) so we can’t look past them.”
While most outsiders are saying C-2 is just a three-team race with the Hawkettes, No. 1 Superior and No. 3 Grand Island Central Catholic — which St. Cecilia has beaten three times this year — VanCura doesn’t see it that way. He said any one of the eight teams can win.
“I feel Class C-2 is very wide-open with the other schools as well, not just us, Superior and GICC,” VanCura said. “The winner will have to serve and pass really well because that’s where it starts. Whoever does the best job in those two areas will have an advantage. We’re hoping our kids can execute that part of the game.”