NORTH PLATTE, Neb. (KNOP)- The St. Pat's volleyball team is heading back to the state championships for the first time since 2012.
As the eight-seed in the Class D1 bracket, their first match with be against the one-seeded Archibishop Bergan Knights. The teams will play on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at Lincoln East.
After starting the season 3-6, the Lady Irish finished the season strong to grab the top seed in the D1-12 sub-district. They swept both matches in sub-districts and won 3-1 in the D1-8 District Final.
Bergan finished the season 30-4 and swept both games in the D1-1 sub-district bracket, and their game in the D1-1 District Final. According to MaxPreps, they are the 21st-ranked team in the state, whereas St. Pat's is ranked 71.
"We're just going to practice like we've got a really tough game on Thursday. We're not really going to try to focus on trying to coach and make up new plays for a team we haven't seen before. We're just going to do the things that we've been doing, because it's really about passing and serving, and, you know, they're just going to go out. It's going to be a tough battle, but we've had a few of those in the last month or so," said Shelly Byrn, the Head Coach for the Lady Irish.
The team is not particularly tall overall, and the players and coaches know this. According to Byrn, they have focused on their defense, passing, and serving all year, and they are not going to change that now.
Now, the focus is just on the game ahead, and not about what has already happened.
"We started off a little rough, but i think we got over the hump and started to play better. Our mindset will be good," said Kaleigh Kummer, a Senior middle hitter on the team.
Calli Groseth, a Senior setter, had a similar sentiment, "Our motto is two points better, so we just want to be two points better. We got off to a little rough of a start. But, we got our heads right and our focus was a lot better."
After beating Lutheran High Northeast to advance to states, the players and coaches were proud of what they had accomplished, and looked ahead to the next challenge.
"We were just so excited. We were just thinking we need to focus, we need to play hard, and we also need to play for each other," said Hayley Homan, a Senior middle hitter.
"You know, if you had asked me back in September, i wouldn't have guessed that we would be here right now," Byrn said, adding, "They've really come together as a team and their focus was to just win. We talk about 'W.I.N.', what's important now, and they've really surpassed what i thought they could do."
When asked about the match against St. Pat's, Archbishop Bergan Assistant Coach Kim Dieckmann said, "We recognize they're very athletic, we're very impressed by their setter, and they have really good blockers. They do a good job keeping the ball in play. Our game plan is taking care of things on our side of the court and focusing on serve and serve receive."
As the top-seed, the coaching staff and players know better than to expect a win, or look past the eighth-ranked Lady Irish.
"We're pretty even keel. All year, our outlook has been one game at a time. We played a tough schedule all season. Especially at state, we're focusing on not getting bigger than that atmosphere," Dieckmann said.