The Hastings Tribune Volleyball Classic had a humble ambition when it was first created five years ago.
For the first few years, it had a totally local vibe by pitting the best players from Tribland against the best of the LouPlatte Conference.
In 2011, the Tribune erased borders and invited the best players from all across the state.
The 2013 edition of the game could solidify the match's growth as one of the premier high school all-star volleyball games in Nebraska, as another milestone was reach this year when 23 players committed to play in the game — the most ever in the five-year history of the event.
The map of players stretches out as north as Howells, as far east as Elkhorn, as far west as North Platte and as far south as Hebron.
The match is set for Thursday at Hastings College's Lynn Farrell Arena. Doors open at 5:45 p.m. and the match is set for 7. Admission is $5 with children 5-and-under getting in free. Proceeds from the event support the Tribune's Newspapers In Education program. Concessions will be available from the college.
The classic possibly has its most talented field this year. Of the 23 players, 16 will be continuing their playing careers in college. That number includes 10 players on the South team.
One of the highest profile athletes to watch is Kearney's Katie Higgins on the South team, as the 6-foot-1 middle blocker has signed to play for the University of Notre Dame.
The North team also features a NCAA Division 1 recruit, as Ord's Nicki Carson will play for the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Three future Hastings College Broncos also will be playing in their future arena. That group includes Abbey Preissler of Giltner and April Faimon of Blue Hill on the South team, as well as Hampton's Kalynn Dahlke on the North team.
A total of 18 players will be playing college athletics, as two more have opted to continue in basketball. That includes Sandy Creek's Mikaela Shaw from the South team. Shaw, the 2012 Tribland volleyball and girls basketball players of the year, has signed to play basketball at UNO.
The North squad will be coached by Diane Torson of Hampton, whose assistant is Peg Heise of Wood River. Wood River reached the Class C-2 state tournament and finished the year 25-8.
Kurk Wiedel of Thayer Central will coach the South team, with his assistant being Dan Sorge of Bruning-Davenport/Shickley. Wiedel, whose Titans reached the C-2 state tournament and finished 22-8, retired from his position at the end of the season after serving as coach for 25 years.
In all, 16 of the 23 athletes helped lead their high school team to a state tournament berth. That list includes an impressive eight athletes who helped their team win the whole thing in 2012.
On the North side, Nicole Broich and Neleigh Hall of Northwest helped the Vikings finally break through in 2012 with a Class B state championship after finishing runner-up the previous three seasons. Alyssa Frauendorfer was Humphrey's go-to player in its D-2 championship of Skyler Erickson's Cedar Valley team. It was Humphrey's second consecutive state title after winning D-1 in 2011.
The South team features a trio from Kearney Catholic and a duo from Exeter-Milligan. Both those schools won state championships in 2012. Representing Kearney Catholic are Megan Anderson, Michaela Mestl and Bailey Sokolowski. Mestl, who was named to the Omaha World-Herald's Super State team, recently was named the Kearney Hub's female athlete of the year for the second consecutive season and is also a two-time Hub volleyball player of the year. Sokolowski, who led the Stars in kills and blocks, will not be able to play in the classic because of surgery.
Representing Exeter-Milligan are Taylor Erdkamp and Jackie Luzum. They both helped the Timberwolves win state championships three out of the last four years, as well as a runner-up finish in 2011.
KC Heimann of Howells-Dodge and Alyssa Foltz of Columbus Scotus helped their schools win titles in 2011.
This is my first year coordinating the all-star match, and I personally believe that in the next few years it could be the top all-star volleyball event in the state.
There are a handful of all-star matches available for prep volleyball stars in the state, with the most notorious likely being the Nebraska Coaches Association all-star matches. The others, for the most part, target a specific region. That was the Tribune Volleyball Classic originally, but is no longer the case as evidenced by the vast region the players hail from this year.
With the classic's steady rise since it first began, it's on track to become the premier all-star match. Each year, fans leave satisfied.
Brook Boucher — North Platte St. Patrick's
Nicole Broich — Northwest
Nicki Carson — Ord
Brittany Cech — Elkhorn South
Kalynn Dahlke — Hampton
Skyler Erickson — Cedar Valley
Alyssa Frauendorfer — Humphrey
Alyssa Foltz — Columbus Scotus
Neleigh Hall — Northwest
KC Heimann — Howells-Dodge
Erica Koehler — York
Coaches: Diane Torson, Hampton; Peg Heise, Wood River
Megan Anderson — Kearney Catholic
Bridgette Baden — Thayer Central
Sara Brune — Heartland
Taylor Erdkamp — Exeter-Milligan
April Faimon — Blue Hill
Katie Higgins — Kearney
Jackie Luzum — Exeter- Milligan
Michaela Mestl — Kearney Catholic
Abbey Preissler — Giltner
Mikaela Shaw — Sandy Creek
Bailey Sokolowski — Kearney Catholic
Olivia Thomas — St. Cecilia
Makaleigh Yantzie — Bruning-Davenport/Shickley
Coaches: Kurk Wiedel, Thayer Central; Dan Sorge, Bruning-Davenport/Shickley