Papillion-La Vista secured its biggest win of the season on Wednesday night, toppling rival Papillion-La Vista South in the Metro Conference Tournament semifinals.
The job wasn’t done, however, and the sixth-ranked Monarchs bounced back from the five-set thriller on Wednesday to take down No. 4 Omaha Westside 3-0 in Thursday’s final.
Papio senior setter Reagan Hickey said the Monarchs were pretty tired coming off their first five-set match of the season, but the win over the top-ranked Titans plus the promise of a conference title provided them with plenty of energy to close out the run.
“We’ve been working for this all season,” Hickey said. “We struggled a little bit at the beginning but towards the end we really picked it up. We’ve been working really hard in practice for this, and that really big win against Papio South, we’ve been working for that all season and we’ve played them six times. It was a huge win and then just rolling over the Westside was super exciting.”
The Monarchs managed to take just one set off the Titans in their first five meetings. They won just five of their first 10 matches of the season but have gone 18-9 since to head into the postseason at 23-14.
The Titans were 33-0 heading into Wednesday’s semifinals and ranked in the top 10 of USA Today’s national rankings. Unfortunately, Papio South had to play without a key starter in setter/hitter Charlee Solomon because of an ankle injury. South Dakota commit Lauren Medeck put the Titans on her back, putting up 21 kills on .413 hitting and 26 digs, but the Monarchs got big games from Mia Tvrdy (19 kills), Morgan Glaser (17 kills) and Lilly Pillay (15 kills) to outlast their rivals.
The Monarchs handed the Titans their first loss of the season then captured their first Metro title in a long time on Thursday, and accomplishing that on their home court as the tournament host was an “amazing” feeling for the Monarchs.
“Having our fans here with us on in our home gym, couldn’t ask for anything more than that,” Papillion-La Vista coach Priscilla Peterson said.
The Monarchs took down the Warriors 25-16, 25-21, 25-23 in the final on Thursday, though the Warriors didn’t go down without a fight in the third set.
“It’s so exciting,” Hickey said. “We’d never beaten Papio South all four years that I’ve been on the team, so I’ve really been working for this for literally four years, and I haven’t won the Metro conference either. So to go out this way is super exciting and I’m really proud of my team.”
Hickey finished with 26 assists and 18 digs on Thursday. Already the school’s career leader in assists, she also surpassed 1,000 career digs against the Titans on Wednesday.
“Reagan being a four-year starter, she has done a great job from her freshman year all the way to now,” Peterson said. “Just running our offense, giving our hitters confidence and even defense in the back row, her serves. She’s one of our most consistent players on our team.”
Tvrdy, an Oregon commit, led everyone with 15 kills on .480 hitting. Glaser teamed up with Tvrdy to throw up a big block that gave the Warriors all kinds of problems throughout the night.
“Our block did a great job getting close,” Peterson said. “Westside has some really big hitters up there, so that was a key focus for us, was making sure we had solid setups and that we were pressing over and slowing that ball down.”
Papillion-La Vista jumped out to an 11-6 lead early in the first set before Westside rallied to pull within one a couple of times. The Monarchs reasserted control with a 9-0 run featuring a pair of aces from Julia Davenport and a few big blocks, digging too deep of a hole for Westside to climb out of.
The Warriors got off to a much better start in set two, winning seven of the first 10 rallies, but the Monarchs cleaned up their play and surged ahead with an 8-3 run to take a 16-11 lead. Westside put together a couple of runs to cut the deficit to one at 16-15 and 22-21, but Papio closed out the game on a 3-0 run.
Papillion-La-Vista wasted no time asserting control in set three, racing out to a 10-3 lead. Instead of rolling over, however, the Warriors dug deep and fought their way back into the game, using a 10-2 run capped by a Kherington Snider ace to take the lead at 13-12. Eight more ties and three more lead changes followed. However, Papillion-La Vista broke that final tie then outlasted the Warriors in a marathon final rally to complete the sweep.
“We hadn’t played them before all season,” Peterson said. “We knew they had some strong hitters, good defense. We knew it was going to be a battle all night. But I was really proud of how our girls came out and fought and we finished it in three.”
Junior Creighton commit Ashlyn Paymal led the Warriors with nine kills while Isabella Lamb, Madeline Lamb and Tatum Godinez chipped in seven kills apiece.
Senior libero Faith Frame, a transfer from Gretna committed to Cincinnati, had a relatively quiet night by her lofty standards with 13 digs. However, she broke a couple of school records against Papio South on Wednesday, finishing with a single-match record 41 digs and breaking the program’s single-season digs record in the process.
“Faith has been phenomenal for us, a huge asset to our team,”Peterson said. “She doesn’t let anything drop in the back row and she really sets the standard for our team letting everyone know that we need to be relentless every single play, no matter what.”
Papillion-La Vista closed out the regular season with a bang and will now head into districts where the Monarchs will be the two seed in A-7, facing Lincoln Southeast on Tuesday. Top-seeded Lincoln Pius X will take on Omaha Burke on the other side of the bracket with the district final to follow on Wednesday.
“This is huge for us, a huge confidence booster going into districts and then state,” Peterson said. “I think we’re headed in the right direction and this is what we needed.”