FIRTH — Both the Johnson-Brock and Meridian volleyball teams knew they were the likely top two seeds in the upcoming Class D-1 state tournament when they hit the court Thursday in the D1-1 district final, but it didn’t matter for the No. 1 Eagles. They wanted redemption.
While Johnson-Brock is the back-to-back state champion, the Eagles lost last season in the district final to Meridian, and it was on their minds throughout the 2017 season.
“We had a lot of motivation coming into this match; it was one of our top goals this season to win a district because we’ve won state but haven’t gotten a district title,” said Johnson-Brock’s Fallon Stutheit.
The Eagles checked that off their to-do list against the No. 2 Mustangs in the district final in an impressive 25-16, 25-16, 26-24 sweep. The win was Johnson-Brock’s third straight against Meridian after last year’s state final and this season’s MUDECAS final.
“It feels amazing to finally accomplish this after we’ve been working at it all season,” Stutheit said.
The district final was never in doubt for the Eagles, as the Mustangs just couldn’t come up with the formula to stop Johnson-Brock from going on debilitating streaks.
It was clear that the Meridian defense had its hands full early on with Stutheit, who racked up 10 of her game-high 24 kills in the first set to set the tone.
Kaitlynn Simon and Mattie Nichols carried the Eagles’ offense when it wasn’t Stutheit, and the Mustangs didn’t have an answer for the depth.
“A district title was on our list of goals heading into this season, and they just came after it tonight,” Johnson-Brock coach Tera Stutheit said. “They’re just playing really well right now. The last few seasons we’ve kind of peaked around this time of year, so we’re hoping to carry this into the state tournament."
It was only the second loss of the season for Meridian, with both losses coming to the Eagles. The third set showed that they can hang with Johnson-Brock at times, but the Mustangs will need a more complete performance if they hope to knock off the top-rated Eagles.
Johnson-Brock remained undefeated against D-1 competition this season, so a three-peat is the Eagles ultimate goal.
“(A three-peat) would mean everything for this team,” Fallon Stutheit said. “We’ve been playing with each other since the third grade and we know winning the state championship is a great feeling. It would be everything.”
The Eagles' lone loss was to Class C-1 Lincoln Christian in tournament play.
Halle Pribyl led the way for Meridian with nine kills while Rylee Pieper had seven kills, Hailey Schafer had four kills, Lauren DeLord had three kills, Josiee Sobotka had two kills and Erin Johnson had one kill. Johnson had 21 assists.
From the service line, Pribyl had three ace serves while Johnson had two aces.
Defensively, Meridian had just two blocks in the match, one each from Pribyl and DeLord. Johnson had 31 digs, Jaicee Sobotka had 29 digs, Pribyl had 21 digs and Pieper had 17 digs.
Meridian still leads Class D1 in wildcard points, which means they would be a top seed and would open the state tournament at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night at Lincoln East. Those pairings won't be official, however, until Class B and C sub-state games are completed on Saturday.