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Aquinas Catholic volleyball closed its season in a first-round loss in the sub-district playoffs to Wahoo Bishop Neumann in three sets, 25-20, 25-18 and 25-20 on Oct. 29.

"I thought we played well but were too inconsistent in our serve receive game," said head coach Jody Pelan in comments sent to the Banner-Press. 

"We attacked well for the most part, but we needed to pass better to keep ourselves in system in order to run our offense effectively.  The girls played hard all the way through to the end though, so I was very proud of their effort."

The Monarchs finish the season with a record of 18-11, which mirrors their record from the 2017 season.  

Aquinas had a tough draw in the sub-districts. Bishop Neumann is ranked No. 4 by the Lincoln Journal Star. On the other side of the bracket was No.1 ranked Wahoo.

"The girls were ready to play," Pelan said. "They are no strangers to tough competition in the Centennial Conference, and the seniors especially knew they had nothing to lose. 

"We were big underdogs, but our team went into the match knowing they wanted to play well and give it their all so that they never have to look back with regrets."

Throughout the season, Pelan said she was happy about how her team performed offensively, but miscommunication and defensive hesitation often cost Aquinas at points throughout the season. 

Six senior played their last game for the Monarchs - Natalie Semin, Breanna Stouffer, Larissa Sellers, Kloe Ruth, Morgan Birkel and Micaiah Vrbka.

The Class of 2019 finishes its career with back-to-back winning seasons at 18-11. Aquinas hasn't put together consecutive seasons above .500 since 2008 and 2009.

The Monarchs won their only state title in program history in 2009.

"Our seniors and senior captains were our best leaders," Pelan said. "All six seniors had integral roles on the team, and they wanted to make their last year the best they possibly could.

"I think you always miss your seniors, but this was a special group in many ways. Breanna Stouffer was a three-year starter at setter, and Micaiah Vrbka and Kloe Ruth were veterans in the middle.  Larissa Sellers is probably the best natural athlete we put on the floor and could play nearly every position. She really came into her own this year on the outside.

"Morgan Birkel worked hard to make herself a solid right side player and did a great job on serve receive and floor defense. Natalie Semin was our other left side starter and played a solid back row for us too, a position she did not play last year.

"This group also finished undefeated at home, something that hasn’t been done since I’ve been the head coach, so I’m very proud of these girls and their efforts."

Aquinas now turns it's attention to next season. Losing six players, three of which were veterans, one a setter and two middles, means potentially a lot of experimentation to figure out where everyone fits.

"Very few players next season will have had any varsity experience," Pelan said. It will be a battle to see who steps up."

Peter Huguenin is a sports reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach him via email at DVDsport@lee.net

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