An all-star game can be challenging for a coach. In many cases, the coach has but only a couple of days to put a group of players together and get them to play as a team.
After Thursday's Tribune Volleyball Classic, South head coach Kurk Wiedel of Thayer Central revealed his formula for getting the talented athletes to play as one unit.
"We had one practice, and what you do is put them out there and let them play a little bit, and they'll figure things out," Wiedel said. "When you have all-stars like this, just stay out of their way and let them figure it out."
It may have taken a couple sets for the South to figure out how to play together, but once the players became comfortable, fans were treated to an exciting show.
After dropping the first two sets, the South mounted a comeback to win the match 20-25, 15-25, 25-18, 25-23, 16-14 Thursday at Lynn Farrell Arena. It was the first time in the all-star game's history that the South team was victorious.
"It's just good to see good kids playing good volleyball. We had great kids. They're not only good volleyball players, but great kids," Wiedel said. "Ultimately, it came down to these girls wanting to win the match. That's what I like to see. They're not used to losing too much. They're good kids."
Two players who were key in the South's comeback were both from Tribland. In the fifth and final set, Sandy Creek's Mikaela Shaw and Bridgette Baden of Thayer Central combined for four kills, five assists, an ace serve and a block.
"It was really intense," Baden said. "I just knew that I had to swing away. It was so much different than in high school, where I had to rely on myself. I had other people around me."
Baden finished with seven kills, two aces and a block. Shaw filled the stat sheet with eight kills, four blocks and 17 assists. According to Shaw, in a game that features so many talented players, it's all about finding the hot hand.
"As a setter, you know that you have so many good hitters and so many people who you can set the ball to. It's just a matter of who you're connecting with at that time," Shaw said. "It was a lot of fun to play. There are a lot of great athletes and a lot of great volleyball players here. It was a lot of fun to be in."
It appeared the North was going to run away with the classic after beating the South 25-15 in the second set. But in set No. 3, the South went on two 6-0 runs, leading to a 25-18 victory.
Kearney's Katie Higgins, a Notre Dame recruit, tallied four blocks and two kills. Baden had four kills in the set, while Shaw and Exeter-Milligan's Taylor Erdkamp combined for 10 assists. Kearney Catholic's Michaela Mestl added three kills, finishing with eight on the day.
The comeback nearly fell short in the fourth set. The North scored 10 of 13 points to take a 20-15 lead. But the South scored five straight and eight of the final nine points to win the set and force a winner-take-all fifth set.
Shaw had two assists and a kill in the final nine points. Baden recorded a kill and a block. The South claimed the set on a block by St. Cecilia's Olivia Thomas.
In the fifth set, the South jumped out to quick 12-6 lead, but the North wasn't going down quietly. It scored eight of the next nine points to take a 14-13 lead.
A Baden kill, set up by Shaw, tied the game at 14-all. Two straight hitting errors by the North gave the South the victory.
"This was fun. This was no stress. I got to coach with a bunch of great athletes. They knew what they were doing, and I just got to sit back and relax. This was fun," said South coach Diane Torson, who is the head coach at Hampton. "Both sides, you saw some really good volleyball. Most of these girls are from small towns, which is really nice. This was an entertaining match. Hopefully, the fans enjoyed what they came to see."
Ord's Nicki Carson led the North squad with 11 kills. Humphrey's Alyssa Frauendorfer, who was named Nebraska's girl athlete of the year, made her impact felt with nine kills, two blocks and two assists.
"It was really cool to get to play with a bunch of players who are the best at their school. Everyone came out and played, and it was good that it went down to the wire," Frauendorfer said.
The Humphrey star added that her favorite part of the experience was just meeting the other players. Frauendorfer, who will play volleyball at Wayne State College, said it will be fun to play against these girls at the collegiate level.
Higgins led the South with nine kills and added four blocks. Erdkamp led the South with 22 assists.
"As a coach, you're always dealt the hand you get from a high school," Wiedel said. "But in an all-star game, it's just an honor to get such good athletes on the court together. Not only is it good to watch them on the court playing, but it's just fun, in my opinion, to watch them interact with each other.
"Again, we're so fortunate in high school sports to get a kid who has great athletic ability, but also such good attitudes, too. It's a pleasure to coach them."
For Wiedel, the match was an appropriate end to a 25-year coaching career. The Tribune Volleyball Classic was the last match he will coach.
Wiedel said it was special that he got to coach his own player, Baden, one last time.
"It was neat because I thought she really played well. We had to use her a lot in the middle on our team this year. But today, we got to use her on the outside," Wiedel said. "She's a great kid, too. All of them are. It was nice to be able to coach that last game with her in there. She's one of the finest girls we've had at Thayer Central."
North 25 25 18 23 14
South 20 15 25 25 16
Brook Boucher (North Platte St. Patrick's) 3-1-1, Kailynn Dahlke (Hampton) 4-0-1, Alyssa Frauendorfer (Humphrey) 9-0-2, Brittany Cech (Elkhorn South) 5-0-0, Nicki Carson (Ord) 11-0-1, Nicole Broich (Northwest) 0-1-0, KC Heimann (Howells-Dodge) 4-0-2, Neleigh Hall (Northwest) 1-0-0, Erica Koehler (York) 1-3-1, Alyssa Foltz (Columbus Scotus) 1-0-1, Skyler Erickson (Greeley-Wolbach) 2-1-0. Totals: 42-6-9.
Assist — Boucher 15, Frauendorfer 2, Cech 2, Carson 2, Heimann 1, Hall 11.
Michaela Mestl (Kearney Catholic) 8-0-0, Megan Anderson (Kearney Catholic) 5-0-3, Olivia Thomas (St. Cecilia) 3-0-0, Jackie Luzum (Exeter-Milligan) 3-1-1, Katie Higgins (Kearney) 9-0-4, Taylor Erdkamp (Exeter-Milligan) 0-2-0, April Faimon (Blue Hill) 0-0-0, Makaleigh Yantzie (Bruning-Davenport/Shickley) 3-0-1, Bridgette Baden (Thayer Central) 7-2-1, Sara Brune (Heartland) 4-0-0, Mikaela Shaw (Sandy Creek) 8-0-4, Abbey Preissler (Giltner) 1-1-1. Totals: 51-6-15.
Assists — Mestl 1, Luzum 1, Erdkamp 22, Faimon 2, Shaw 17.