LINCOLN — Four-time state champion Exeter-Milligan fought off the challenge of sixth-seeded Mead on Thursday in the opening round of the Class D-2 state volleyball tournament at Lincoln Northeast.
The third-ranked Timberwolves (25-6) scored seven unanswered points and sprinted to a 13-5 lead in the crucial fifth set before No. 8 Mead (18-10) rallied to cut the lead to 14-9 following three straight points.
Exeter-Milligan regained its composure and closed the match with a cross-court kill from junior Kate Jansky and head coach Darcy White’s squad advanced to the semifinals for the eighth time in nine years. Jansky’s kill capped a 25-17, 27-29, 25-14, 21-25, 15-9 first-round win.
For White, who boosted her state record to 20-6 as Exeter-Milligan’s coach, the match bore little resemblance to a lopsided subdistrict win over the Raiders on Halloween.
“We served really well, we were loose and our serve-receive was on,” White said of the subdistrict matchup. “(Mead) came out with a lot of intensity today. They served a lot better and they passed better. They’re a top team. This was a huge win for us and hopefully we can rebound for tomorrow morning.”
Exeter-Milligan took control in the first set as Jansky and Katherine White pounded away at Mead’s defense. But a 16-5 lead was cut to 18-13 as the Raiders showed they would not go quietly, and that set the tone for the match.
Katherine White, a junior outside hitter and daughter of the coach, finished with a match-high 28 kills. She had 10 in the second game and four more plus a pair of ace serves in the closing set. Hannah Beethe added 14 kills and Jansky had 10.
Mead, in its 15th state tournament, forced a fifth set on the strength of June Johnson’s five kills in the fourth game. The senior outside hitter led the Raiders with 13 kills while Rebecca Halbmaier added 10.
Josie Parham had 31 set assists and 21 digs. Johnson had 22 digs.
Despite a tradition that has helped the Timberwolves make the state tourney field 11 times since the schools combined in 2002, White admitted nerves played a role Thursday.
“Hopefully, we got some jitters out because we were tense,” White said. “Our serve game wasn’t the best and that tells me were tight. We have to find a way to relax and step up that part of our game tomorrow morning.”