For Omaha Marian libero Brittany Witt, there was only one way to finish her senior season.
With the school’s third straight Class A title.
Witt, a four-year starter at libero for the Crusaders, did her part. The Creighton recruit led Class A in digs with 589 and provided the kind of leadership that every championship squad needs.
Witt is the honorary captain of the All-Nebraska volleyball team. She joins Papillion-La Vista South’s Raegan LeGrand as repeat selections.
» Four All-Nebraskans highlight Class A volleyball first team
» List: All-Class teams, honorable mention
Joining them on the first team are Elizabeth Loschen of Marian, Sarah Swanson of Elkhorn South, Halie McArdle of Gretna, Olivia Nicholson of North Platte and Alli Schomers of Omaha Skutt.
Second-team selections are Kiley Hixson of Aurora, Brooke Heyne of Omaha Skutt, Allison Kuenle of North Platte, Anna Squiers of Kearney Catholic, Kelsey Green of Elkhorn South, Taylor Crandall of Papillion-La Vista South and Amanda Young of Gretna.
Members of the third team are Lucy Skoch and Shandra Farmer of Hastings St. Cecilia, Sophia Terwilleger of Marian, Jadyn McCartney of Chadron, Kylie Belt of Emerson-Hubbard, Katie Stephens of Papillion-La Vista and Morgan Alexander of Ord.
Selections for the All-Nebraska and All-Class teams are based on observations by World-Herald staff writers and nominations by coaches.
A second-team selection as a sophomore, Witt earned first-team honors last year with a state-record 738 digs. She holds the school record for digs and had 66 in three state tournament matches, including 30 in a semifinal win over Papillion-La Vista South.
She teamed with Missouri recruit Andie Hanus, a defensive specialist for the Crusaders, to give Marian one of the toughest back-row defenses in the state.
“I’m not sure any school has had a defense like that,” Crusaders coach Amy McLeay said. “It was probably incredibly frustrating for our opponents who had to face it.”
The coach added that Witt brought a needed toughness to the team that stumbled out of the gate, losing three early-season matches, but didn’t lose again after mid-September.
“Brittany is very mature, and she wasn’t afraid to challenge her teammates,” McLeay said. “And as good as she’s been for us, I get the feeling that her volleyball career is just getting started.”
The 5-foot-9 Witt will play for the Bluejays, something she is excited about.
“I can’t wait to get started there,” she said. “They have a great coaching staff and I’ll be able to play in front of my family.”
Like Witt, the Southern Cal recruit has been a consistent performer at her school for four years. LeGrand was a freshman libero on the 2012 Papio South state championship team before moving to outside hitter, where she responded with 354 kills as a sophomore and 475 as a junior.
She was even better this year, leading Class A in kills with 485. LeGrand also helped her squad reach the state tournament for the seventh time, though that run came to an end in the semifinals against Marian.
“I’m so proud of what our team accomplished,” she said. “Our new coach (Brad Reichmuth) did an amazing job, and that state tournament exposure will help our younger players.
Reichmuth said he was happy to get the chance to coach LeGrand on the varsity level.
“I knew about her when I got hired,” he said. “I was a little intimidated at first but I was shocked and surprised how humble she is.”
The 5-foot-10 LeGrand had an important defensive presence with 443 digs. She also had 63 blocks and 25 aces.
But Reichmuth said it was her leadership that helped the 35-7 Titans be the only team that defeated both Marian and North Platte — the top two ranked teams in Class A — during the regular season.
“We had a lot of young kids this season,” he said. “Without Raegan doing the things she did as a team leader, we never could have reached our goals.”
A key member of Marian’s state championship squad, Loschen was the top hitter in the Crusaders’ balanced attack. She finished with 366 kills, including a team-high 13 in the Class A final against North Platte.
“The biggest improvement she made as a player was her presence on the block,” McLeay said. “We felt she could put up the best fight against the other team’s top hitter.”
The coach added that Loschen, a South Dakota recruit, played with added confidence this season.
“She liked being the go-to hitter,” McLeay said. “And I think the way she played at the state tournament showed that.”
Loschen had seven kills in a first-round win over Millard North and then stepped it up in the semifinals, pounding 13 kills in a four-set win over Papio South. Her 13 kills in the final helped guarantee the Crusaders’ seventh state title and third in a row.
“I thought those last two matches at state were two of her best all season,” McLeay said. “And they couldn’t have come at a better time.”
The 6-1 Loschen credited her teammates for turning the season around — Marian was 4-3 after seven matches — and accomplishing the team’s goal.
“We kept pushing each other, and I think we continued to get better,” she said.
One of the most dynamic hitters in the state, Swanson led Class B with 515 kills. One of two juniors on the first team, she had 41 kills in two state tournament matches — including 26 in a first-round win over Aurora.
“She was a tremendous offensive force,” Storm coach Briana Ritter said. “She either led us in kills or was second every match.”
Teaming with hard-hitting Kelsey Green, the duo presented a 1-2 punch that few opponents could match. Green, who missed part of the season with an ankle injury, had 309 kills.
Ritter added that Swanson, a TCU pledge, has become a more complete player since starting as a freshman.
“She had been primarily a blocker but that completely flipped this year,” the coach said. “She became much more competitive and was a six-rotation player for us, so she could do it all.”
Swanson also has a potent jump serve in her repertoire that kept opposing defenses on edge.
“It’s a very high-risk serve, but it’s worth it,” Ritter said. “I think that really got in the heads of the teams we played.”
Swanson said a semifinal finish at state — the Storm lost to eventual state champion Omaha Skutt — is going to drive her next season.
“I’m excited to be coming back,” she said. “I feel as though we’ve got some unfinished business.”
Much like Swanson, the hard-hitting McArdle was one of the top players in Class B. The four-year starter had 386 kills last season and finished with an even 500 this year.
“I thought Halie took her whole game to another level this year,” Gretna coach Mike Brandon said. “And when it came to the state tournament, she took it up another notch to the collegiate level.”
McArdle started that state tourney run in the first round with 17 kills and 21 digs in a win over Elkhorn. She had a match-high 25 kills and 21 digs in a semifinal victory over Grand Island Northwest to help lift the Dragons into the final.
Facing Skutt for the championship, McArdle did her best to bring Gretna its first title. She had 27 kills and 16 digs in three sets but it wasn’t enough as the SkyHawks claimed the championship.
“Halie made big plays on offense and defense, and she did that all season,” Brandon said. “Actually, she did that her whole career.”
The coach added that McArdle’s play at state motivated the rest of his team.
“She’s a great leader, and I think our team was inspired by how she played,” he said.
North Platte made a strong run at a Class A state title, and Nicholson was a key reason why.
The 6-1 middle hitter had 347 kills before adding 50 in three state tournament matches. But it wasn’t quite enough as the Bulldogs fell to Marian in the final.
“Olivia brought a lot of talent to every match we played,” North Platte coach Laura Miller said. “Her volleyball IQ is amazing, and she was very disciplined on the court.”
Nicholson, who also had more than 100 blocks, teamed with outside hitter Allison Kuenle to give the Bulldogs a solid 1-2 punch. Kuenle had more than 400 kills as North Platte finished 37-4 — three of those losses coming against the Crusaders.
Miller said Nicholson, a Colorado State recruit, had an ability to find the open spots in opposing defenses.
“Olivia has great vision,” she said. “She was our go-to person, and she was always able to hit the ball where she could get us points.” Miller added that Nicholson’s senior leadership was important to her squad.
“She was a confident leader, and the other players pick up on that,” the coach said. “Her teammates looked up to her, and she was always willing to help our younger players.”
The Skutt junior was part of a two-setter attack last season but she stepped up as the lone setter this year. Schomers had 1,149 assists and was the key player in the SkyHawks’ balanced attack.
“We couldn’t have accomplished what we did without her,” Skutt coach Renee Saunders said. “She was able to read the blocks and make great decisions about who to set.” Saunders added that Schomers was a successful hitter last season but she was needed more as the primary setter this year.
“She told me that she wanted to run the offense,” Saunders said. “When you’ve got a leader like that on the team, it makes a coach’s job a lot easier.”
The SkyHawks suffered just two losses this season — one against eventual Class A champ Marian and one against Gretna in the final of the SkyHawk Invitational. Schomers missed that match against the Dragons after suffering an injury in a match earlier in the day.
Skutt didn’t lose again, rattling off 18 straight wins. At state, the SkyHawks swept all three of their matches and Schomers, a Missouri-Kansas City recruit, had 131 assists.
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More All-Nebraska selections
ALL-NEBRASKA SECOND TEAM
Kiley Hixson, Aurora, Hitter, 6-0, Sr.
Brooke Heyne, Omaha Skutt, Hitter, 5-10, Jr.
Allison Kuenle, North Platte, Hitter, 5-11, Sr.
Anna Squiers, Kearney Catholic, Hitter, 5-11, Jr.
Kelsey Green, Elkhorn South, Hitter, 6-1, Sr.
Taylor Crandall, Papillion-La Vista South, Setter, 5-7, Sr.
Amanda Young, Gretna, Libero, 5-8, Sr.
ALL-NEBRASKA THIRD TEAM
Sophia Terwilleger, Omaha Marian, Hitter, 5-9, Sr.
Jadyn McCartney, Chadron, Hitter, 6-0, Jr.
Lucy Skoch, Hastings St. Cecilia, Hitter, 6-2, Jr.
Kylie Belt, Emerson-Hubbard, Hitter, 6-0, Sr.
Katie Stephens, Papillion-La Vista, Hitter, 5-9, Sr.
Morgan Alexander, Ord, Setter, 5-6, Sr.
Shandra Farmer, Hastings St. Cecilia, Libero, 5-3, Sr.