LINCOLN – It seemed as though a first set loss for the #3 Meridian Mustangs woke the team up because they rolled through the final three sets to defeat #6 Dundy County-Stratton.

The Mustangs won 19-25, 25-11, 25-12 and 25-15.

With the victory, Meridian improves to 25-5 on the season and advances to the second round to play #2 Elgin Public/Pope John.

Meridian is looking to advance to the finals for only the second time in school history. The last time was in 1980, when they finished runner-up.

     Pieper propels Meridian to semifinals

LINCOLN -- Rylee Pieper served as a spark plug for Meridian Thursday in their win over Dundy County-Stratton in the first round of the NSAA State Volleyball Tournament.

The Class D1, fourth-seeded Mustangs came out sluggish and lost in the first set, but they opened up the second set on a 10-0 run behind five kills from Pieper. The Mustangs took care of business from there, winning the match 19-25, 25-11, 25-12, 25-15.

With the win, they advance to play second-seeded Elgin Public/Pope John at 9 a.m. on Friday at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln.


The first set was close early on, but with the score tied 8-8, Dundy County scored four of the next five points  to take a 13-9 lead and force a Meridian timeout. With the score 17-14, Pieper and Hailey Schafer registered kills to get the Mustangs within one at 17-16.

Dundy County scored four straight and the Mustangs never recovered in the 25-19 loss.

Meridian Coach Bob VanWesten suspects nerves may have played a role in his team's early struggles. Nobody on the Mustang roster has experienced a state tournament.

"I didn't think we'd come out like that after how well we played last week, but the spotlight may have got to them," VanWesten said. "We were lacking a little excitement, but once we got that going, we put them on their heals and things got better."

After Pieper's offensive explosion gave Meridian a 10-0 lead in the second set, Dundy County never recovered in the 25-11 win. Pieper had 10 kills in the set.


"She usually does get us going and she has been really consistent lately," VanWesten said. "She wants the ball and we want to get her the ball. She was really putting them down and she really was the only one doing that early in the game. Their block did a good job early and she was the only one getting it through."

The third set started similarly. Meridian started with a 6-0 run. Dundy County scored three straight to make it 6-3, but Meridian scored the next five points behind two kills from Pieper and an ace serve by Allison Klipp, which made it 11-3.


Dundy County got within four at 12-8, but a kill by Halle Pribyl and another by Schafer made it 14-8. They would coast to the 25-12 win from there to go up 2-1 in the match.

In the fourth set, Dundy county motored out to a 5-1 lead, but two kills by Pieper, a kill by Erin Johnson and a Tiger error tied the match at 5-5.

The score remained tight, but with the score at 11-11, Meridian went on a 9-1 run to extend the lead to 20-12. Pieper had three kills and a block during the run while Schafer had a block and Johnson had an ace serve. They would go on to win 25-15 to claim the match.

"We just finally got our confidence up and once they got rolling, they were able to keep it going," VanWesten said. "Those last couple sets were really how we've been playing as of late."

Pieper had 25 kills in the match while Pribyl had nine, Schafer had six, Klipp had four and Lauren DeLord had two. Pribyl and Pieper had four blocks each while Pribyl and Klipp had 2 digs each. Johnson had 42 assists.

"It's nice to make it to the semifinals," VanWesten said. "They really wanted this bad and you just never know when it's a team that plays a different schedule. I feel good for our girls and I know they are confident for tomorrow."