Hastings St. Cecilia has passed almost every test that’s been thrown at it.
Now the Class C-2 No. 2 Hawkettes face another test this week. They are the top seed in the always tough Centennial Conference Tournament.
The tournament features a lot of school with tradition. The Hawkettes are one of those teams as they have seven state championships.
Columbus Scotus has a state record 15 state titles, while Grand Island Central Catholic has nine championships, Kearney Catholic has four, Lincoln Christian has two, and Archbishop Bergan, Omaha Concordia, Lincoln Lutheran and David City Aquinas all have one.
This year’s tournament features six rated schools — St. Cecilia, C-1 No. 5 Lincoln Lutheran, No. 10 Scotus, C-2 No. 3 GICC, No. 6 Bishop Neumann and D-1 No. 3 Bergan. The 10 teams will play in two pools of five with the winners of both playing in the championship match at 4 p.m. Saturday at Aquinas.
HSC coach Alan Vancura said this year might be as difficult as it’s ever been. The Hawkettes host two matches on Thursday with Bergan and Kearney Catholic, then will play Concordia and Lincoln Lutheran Saturday at Aquinas.
“There won’t be any easy games for anybody in this tournament,” Vancura said.
St. Cecilia certainly has earned that No. 1 seed. The Hawkettes have two wins over GICC, a win over Class B No. 5 Sidney and D-2 No. 1 Lawrence-Nelson. The two setbacks have been to C-2 No. 1 Superior and Fillmore Central, both in three sets.
“Our schedule’s been brutal. We’ve played eight straight matches against teams with winning records,” Vancura said. “And we beat a lot of good teams. There’s been no easy matches for us but we’ve done well so far.”
The balance is a reason why St. Cecilia is 23-2 on the season. The Hawkettes have six players with over 100 kills. Tori Thomas leads the way with 257 kills, while Katherine Hamburger has 173 kills. They are also hitting .314 as a team with Addie Kirkegaard leading the area with a .418 efficiency, while Hamburger is second at .393 and Thomas is third at .347.
Makenna Asher has paced the offense with 777 set assists, but also has 159 kills and a team-leading 53 ace serves on the season. She is also second in digs with 206 behind team-leader Erin Sheehy, who has 248.
Vancura said the balance as been key for an athletic St. Cecilia bunch, which has many players from their state basketball championship team last year.
“The kids take pride in that. Any given night, any one of hitters could lead us in kills,” Vancura said. “We don’t have to rely on one hitter, it just depends on the flow of the match. They are athletic and we do have some size and some quickness. Makenna has done a great job of running our offense and knows who to get the ball to in certain situations and she also isn’t afraid to take a swing when she needs to. Everyone knows their role.”
Meanwhile, GICC is the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament and will host matches on Thursday as well.
The Crusaders open with Lincoln Christian at 5 p.m., then Scotus at 7 p.m. GIVV will play Aquinas and Neumann Saturday at Aquinas.
Vancura said whoever wins the tournament will have to play very well.
“They’ll have to play five really good matches in a span of three days,” he said. “There is a good group of five to six teams that can win it, but you can’t overlook anybody in this tournament. They’ll have to play consistent volleyball and maybe get a few breaks a long the way. Whoever wins on Saturday will have definitely earned it.”
Centennial Conference Tournament
At St. Cecilia
St. Cecilia vs. Bergan; Lincoln Lutheran vs. Concordia, 5 p.m.
Bergan vs. Concordia; Lincoln Lutheran vs. Kearney Catholic, 6 p.m.
St. Cecilia vs. Kearney Catholic, 7 p.m.
At Grand Island CC
Grand Island CC vs. Lincoln Christian; Neumann vs. Aquinas, 5 p.m.
Scotus vs. Aquinas; Neumann vs. Lincoln Christian, 6 p.m.
Grand Island CC vs. Scotus, 7 p.m.
Bergan vs. Lincoln Lutheran; Scotus vs. Neumann, 10 a.m.
St. Cecilia vs. Concordia; Grand Island CC vs. Aquinas, 11 a.m.
Bergan vs. Kearney Catholic; Scotus vs. Lincoln Christian, noon
St. Cecilia vs. Lincoln Lutheran; GICC vs. Neumann, 1 p.m.
Concordia vs. Kearney Catholic; Lincoln Christian vs. Aquinas, 2 p.m.
Fifth-place (Pool A 3rd vs. Pool B 3rd); Third-place (Poll A 2nd vs. Pool B 2nd), 3 p.m.
Championship (Pool A 1st vs. Pool B 1st), 4 p.m.
St. Paul earns top seed at Lou-Platte Conference Tournament
Class C-1 No. 1 St. Paul earned the No. 1 seed in the Lou-Platte Conference Tournament.
The three-time defending conference tournament champions will open with the winner of Doniphan-Trumbull and Central City Monday.
Arcadia-Loup City is the No. 2 seed, while Centura is No. 3.
Tuesday’s and Thursday’s matches will be played in Ord.
Lou-Platte Conference Tournament
At St. Paul
Doniphan-Trumbull vs. Central City, 6 p.m.
St. Paul vs. DT-CC winner, 7 p.m.
Ord vs. Gibbon, 6 p.m.
Centura vs. Ravenna, 7 p.m.
At Loup City
Wood River vs. Arcadia-Loup City, 7 p.m.
CEN-RAV winner vs. ALC-WR winner, 6 p.m.
SP-DT/CC winner vs. ORD-GIB winner, 7 p.m.
Third-place match, 6 p.m.
Championship, 7 p.m.
Marc Zavala covers volleyball for The Independent.