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Heading back to State

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Lady Trojans sweep Axtell to earn trip to State

ALBION — The Cedar Catholic Lady Trojans were on a mission.

After missing last year’s state tournament for the first time in years, the Cedar girls were determined to make sure that wouldn’t happen again this season.

The Lady Trojans completed that mission by storming Axtell Saturday for a three-set sweep in the District finals here.

The win puts Cedar into this week’s D1 State Tournament in Lincoln — the team’s sixth visit to State in the last seven years.

Solid serving and some ferocious kills, along with a solid blocking effort at the net, helped Cedar take the 25-18 first-set win.

In all, the Lady Trojans fired six ace serves over the net, led by senior Meredith McGregor’s five aces.

Kills by senior Laney Kathol and Meredith McGregor sandwiched between an Axtell hitting error gave the Lady Trojans a quick 3-0 lead to open the contest.

Axtell finally got on the board thanks to a Cedar hitting error, but it was all Lady Trojans after that as McGregor fired a pair of ace serves over the net and Cedar added two more quick kills to extend its lead to 8-3, forcing the Lady Wildcats to call a timeout.

The two squads traded points after that until Cedar used an 8-2 scoring run to extend its lead to 18-11. The Lady Cats eventually whittled the deficit to four points, before Cedar put the game away.

Axtell bounced back in the second set, taking advantage of Cedar mistakes to take an 11-8 early lead.

A Wildcat error and kills by Lexi Eickhoff and Laney Kathol knotted the score at 11-11.

Cedar began to pull away after that, but a pair of Jenna Marsh kills and an Axtell ace knotted the contest at 20-20, forcing Buss to call a timeout.

The teams again traded points after the timeout with Cedar eventually pulling out the 26-24 win when the Cats fired a return shot out of bounds to give Cedar the winning point.

Cedar is not afraid of a close game, because the team knows how to respond when adversity hits, said senior outside hitter Laney Kathol.

“We just had confidence and we knew we could do it,” Kathol said. “Our team has grown so much — we know our strengths and so when we get down like that, we just persevere to the end — really good team chemistry today.”

Cedar Catholic Coach Denae Buss said she is impressed by her team’s composure.

“We were not easily rattled and that helped us tremendously on Saturday as we dug ourselves a few holes but steadily trusted in their training and trusting each other that it was going to be okay, and they just kept plugging away. Overall, we played a good team Saturday that was able to get some hits, but our consistency and energy prevailed.”

Buss enjoyed watching all her pieces come together at such a vital time.

“It was a team win by far,” Buss said. “All the players really stepped up to contribute, even on the bench. We had a great energy. Also, this past week we were able to see our team make a few mistakes, we would call a time out and they come back to the bench, and you could see in their eyes and words, ‘Okay, lets settle down, get back to the basics and go again.’

It was such a 180-degree flip of the 2021 script.

“Last year we had a very young team and lacking in confidence – the talent was definitely there,” Eickhoff said. “This year we finally figured it out and in the practices we had we saw the talent we had and put it to use.

“We definitely stepped up our game and hopefully that motivated the younger players to get the confidence that they can do it.”

Kathol had 13 kills in a 3-0 (25-22, 2523, 25-16) sweep of Wausa in the SubDistrict openers the previous Monday and the Lady Trojans booked their trip to the District final by beating the number one team in the state — Norfolk Catholic — for the first time in three tries this season.

Cedar earned the 3-1 (25-21, 21-25, 25-21, 25-21) win thanks to a strong effort at the net.

“Our linemen did a great job of controlling the line of scrimmage,” Cattau said. “These guys really wore out Mitchell’s linemen early in the game and that allowed us to really create great push throughout the rest of the game.”

Proven by the 335 rushing yards and the fact that the Trojan defense limited the Tigers to just 34 yards on the ground.

Carson Arens paced the defense with eight total tackles, Jaelen Lammers had six, Christensen and Jay Steffen each added five.

Arens had the pick-six and Ty Thoene also grabbed an interception, Christensen and Max Steffen split a sack of the quarterback.

Next in line is a home date with Malcolm which will arrive in Hartington unbeaten at 10-0.

In fact, the Clippers have scored more than 48 points in each of their last six games, including a 64-17 opening-round playoff win over Archbishop Bergan last week.

“Malcolm is going to be a great challenge for us,” Cattau said. “We will need to be very disciplined on every play, they will play a 3-4 defense and have good players at every position. We will need to run and throw the ball effectively to keep them off balance so they don’t know what to expect.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 4.

Cedar 16 20 0 8 — 44 Mitchell 7 0 7 0 — 14 Cedar Mitchell Pass 5-11-71 6-13-164 Rush 48-335 28-34 Total 59-406 41-198 First Downs 21 9 Penalty yds 5-35 4-20 TOs 2 3 PASSING Cedar - Braeden Reifenrath, 5-11-71. Mitchell - Cale Peters, 6-13-164.

RUSHING Cedar - Andrew Jones, 25; 164; James Christensen, 8-70; Braeden Reifenrath, 5-39; Keaton Arens, 6-22; Breiton Whitmire, 1-20; Karsan Albers, 2-16; Alex Kuehn, 1-4. Mitchell - Hayden Umble, 1541; Santiago Castillo, 5-3; Cale Peters, 6- -3; Desmonde Smith, 2 - -7.

RECEIVING Cedar - Alex Kuehn, 1-31; Jaxson Bernecker, 1-29; James Christensen, 1-7; Keaton Steffen, 1-3; Carson Arens, 1-1. Mitchell - Santiago Castillo, 1-58; Ace Hobbs, 1-45; Desmonde Smith, 3-39; Hayden Umble, 1-22.

TACKLES Cedar - Carson Arens, 8; Jaelen Lammers, 6; James Christensen, 5; Jay Steffen, 5; Spencer Albers, 5; Ty Thoene, 4; Keaton Steffen, 4; Max Steffen, 3; Weston Heine, 3; Nolan Becker, 2; Jaxson Bernecker, 2; Andrew Jones, 2; Jaymison Cattau, 2; Owen Dendinger, 2.

FIRST QUARTER M: Santiago Castillo 58 pass from Cael Peters, Castillo kick, 10:50. 0-7.

CC: James Christensen 20 run, Braeden Reifenrath run, 6:45. 8-7.

CC: Jaxson Bernecker 29 pass from Reifenrath, Reifenrath run, 1:00. 16-7.

SECOND QUARTER CC: Andrew Jones 20 run, run failed, 6:30. 22-7.

CC: Carson Arens interception return for touchdown, Jones run, 3:00. 30-7.

CC: Reifenrath 23 run, run failed, 1:20.


THIRD QUARTER M: Hayden Umble 22 pass from Peters, Castillo kick, 4:36. 30-14.

FOURTH QUARTER CC: Jones 2 run, Jones run, 6:51. 44-14.