LINCOLN — Allie DeGroff and her Fremont Bergan teammates were all smiles moments after the top-seeded Lady Knights swept North Platte St. Patrick’s in the opening round of the Class D-1 state tournament.
“It is such a relief,” the junior said after Bergan’s 25-16, 25-20, 25-15 win at Lincoln East. “We were kind of nervous last year (a loss to Stanton in the C-2 tournament) because Bergan hadn’t been here for a while. I know I was nervous as a sophomore, but this year I grew up and got better at fundamentals and developed more shots. Some of us played at state basketball, too, so we were kind of used to this atmosphere.”
Bergan started slow in the first set and trailed 8-6. Senior Lexie Langley delivered one of her 13 kills to cut the deficit to one. Then the Lady Knights scrambled to save a ball that looked like it would be a point for the Lady Irish. Haley Kempf’s hustle play resulted in a kill by DeGroff that tied it.
“We have speed and we can chase things down,” Bergan coach Sue Wewel said. “I think that kind of gave us some motivation. Early on, we just didn’t seem as sharp as we have been, but I’m sure nerves had something to do with that.”
St. Pat’s led 12-11 on a kill by Calli Groseth, but Bergan went ahead for good on back-to-back kills by Langley. The Augustana recruit put an exclamation point on the first set by accounting for three of the final four Bergan points — two on ace serves and one on a kill.”
“I thought we played awesome as a team,” Langley said. “Serve receive for me was a little rough at first, but we worked together and got it going. It definitely took a while in that first set to settle down. It is loud and crazy in here, but I don’t think our nerves bothered us too much.”
The Lady Irish went up 6-4 in the second set on a kill by Abbi Allberry, but Langley was at the service line for nine straight Bergan points. DeGroff hammered a couple of overpasses and Langley delivered an ace during the run that put Bergan up 13-6.
“We got some momentum there, but it all started with our serve,” Wewel said. “Langley’s serving was amazing.”
St. Patrick’s fought back with an 8-1 run that was capped by an ace serve from Brooke McClellen to tie it. An Irish service error and a Kempf kill put Bergan ahead for good.
The Lady Knights finished with 11 blocks while St. Pat’s had four.
“Our block got better as we went,” Wewel said. “We are a team that really has to get a feel of an opponent as far as who is hitting and where. I tell the girls that (information), but it is a case of just getting into the rhythm of the game and figuring out where each hitter will go.”
The Lady Knights never trailed in the final game. St.Pat’s closed to 7-5 when Bergan was called for an illegal hit, but the Lady Knights scored five of the next six points. The Lady Irish never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
Kempf had 11 kills while DeGroff had eight kills and 15 digs. Lauren Baker had five kills and six blocks. Allison Dieckmann contributed 32 set assists and 12 digs. Langley had a team-best three aces and added three blocks. Libero Kaia McIntrye had 10 digs and Emma Walz had a kill and a block.
Kaleigh Kummer had seven kills, seven digs and a block for the Lady Irish, who end their season at 24-9.
Bergan improves to 31-4 and will face fourth-seeded Pleasanton, 32-2, at 9 Friday morning at Pinnacle Bank Arena.
“They are a good team,” Langley said. “We got a chance to watch them (a 25-17, 25-15, 25-16 win over Nebraska Christian Thursday) but we just need to play our game.”
DeGroff was asked if there is pressure as the top-ranked and top-seeded team in D-1.
“The pressure is there, but we believe in ourselves,” she said. “We’ll take things one game at a time.”