SUPERIOR — When Superior’s volleyball team and girls basketball teams captured those respective programs’ first ever state championships in the fall of 2017 and spring of 2018, it set the bar, and perhaps a somewhat unrealistic expectation.
The Wildcats’ talented then-sophomore class is now six seniors. Their banner year was by no means a fluke, but it set forth an idea that titles in their junior and senior season might also be won.
“It’s just not that easy,” girls basketball coach Jim Sullivan said. “I think they kind of understand that now. They’ve been through it and it hasn’t turned out how they expected or wanted.”
Both the volleyball team and basketball team have been back at state since winning a title. The volleyball team just finished its third straight trip to Lincoln with its second consecutive fourth place finish. Eventual state champion St. Cecilia bounced the then defending champion Wildcats in the first round of the Class C-2 girls basketball tournament in March.
Championships have been in sight for Superior, but it hasn’t all come together in the time since the first title.
“Things just kind of have to line up for you to do it, and you have to have a little luck,” Sullivan said. “We’ll have a crack at it again and see what happens this year.”
This winter is the last go around for Kalynn Meyer, who recently signed her letter of intent to play volleyball at Nebraska. She has been the star of Superior athletics the last three and a half years.
Meyer broke the single season rebounding record last winter with 419, and she’s on pace to own the all-time rebounding record this season, as well as crack the top 10 in all-time scoring.
“If they kept track of blocks, she’d probably be No. 1 in total blocks already,” Sullivan said with a laugh.
Meyer averaged 20 points and 16 rebounds per game last season. Sullivan has one more season of being her coach, and he knows how special of a player she is.
“It’s easy to take her for granted,” he said. “I think she understands her time with basketball is almost up and she wants to end it on a high note.”
Shayla, Kalynn’s younger sister, showed tremendous growth on the volleyball court this fall. Sullivan said it has carried over into basketball as well.
“She might be the best player on the floor every single night. Even better than Kalynn, which is saying something,” Sullivan said. “She’s filled out a little bit. She’s more confident in herself and her abilities, and she’s going to be tough. She’s more of a guard, but being 6-foot she can obviously go inside and post up.”
Superior brings back all five starters, including the Meyers. Hallie Miller (8 ppg, 3 rpg), Trisha Hayes (5 ppg, 3 rpg, 3 apg), and Emma Schnakenberg all have plenty of experience. Noelle McMeen, Zaveah Kobza, and Sierra Blackburn are also seasoned.
The Wildcats lost five games by one possession last year, including a pair of one-point losses to Southern Nebraska Conference rival Fillmore Central, who finished fourth at state.
The close games make for tough losses to stomach, but also help a team understand what it takes to win. A veteran group like Sullivan’s knows that just as much as anybody.
“It makes the girls smarter players. They realize every possession matters and helps them understand the position they’re in,” the coach said. “It stinks to lose but I think we did learn from those outcomes in those games.”
Superior was depleted with injury last season and down to roughly seven players for the latter half of the year. It led to fatigue sooner rather than later for the Wildcats. That, coupled with the handful of close losses, placed Superior as the eighth seed in the state tournament against No. 1 St. Cecilia, which won by 30-points in the game.
“It just hurt playing St. Cecilia right out the shoot,” Sullivan said.
But Superior, with its six seniors and state experience, believes it’ll be back in Lincoln come March.
“Things should be just fine if we stay healthy,” Sullivan said.