With a loud home gym behind them, the Lincoln Southwest Silver Hawks stepped onto the court with intensity. Their star player, sophomore Shaylee Myers, unleashed a powerful kill to put the team up 1-0, and the whole gym exploded.

Unfortunately for the Silver Hawks, the excitement was short-lived, and they wouldn’t have another lead until the third set. Instead, Class A No. 2 Lincoln Pius X used a well-rounded offensive effort to overcome the No. 9 Silver Hawks 25-13, 25-13, 30-28 and become champions of the Heartland Athletic Conference.

The first two sets were an offensive clinic by the Thunderbolts (27-6). Freshman setter Adison Markowski made her first career start but looked like a veteran on the court, utilizing all the weapons her team had to offer. Pius X coach Katie Wenz said Markowski had been connecting well with her teammates in practice and it showed on the court, as she totaled 42 assists.

At the same time, Pius X’s defense held strong. After the opening kill, Myers went through most of the first set before scoring again at 23-12.

“When we had the opportunities for offense, we couldn’t get there, and we also needed some more defense, we didn’t give much of that in the first two sets,” Lincoln Southwest coach Mark Novotny said.

The third set was a different story, as Novotny tinkered with his rotation to bring in different players. The move worked, and Southwest (21-12) took an early lead and held it until midway through the set.

“We needed some energy, we were playing tired and we needed a spark somewhere,” Novotny said.

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Pius X eventually reclaimed the lead and looked ready to close out the match with a 24-20 set point. A pair of Silver Hawk blocks helped tie the match at 24-24, setting up a series of back-and-forth match points. Pius X finally broke through at 30-28 with Carly Rodaway's winning kill.

“That was a good reminder of what happens when you don’t play disciplined the entire time,” Wenz said. “It was a good reminder you don’t win a match in two sets.”

Three Thunderbolts had double-digit kills. Kylen Sealock led the way with 16 kills, Lauren Taubenheim had 13 and Rodaway added 11 more. Myers led the Silver Hawks with 11.

While the Thunderbolts are conference champions, both teams will play on next week in the district finals. Lincoln Southwest has a difficult district containing host Omaha Marian, Fremont and Millard North, while Lincoln Pius X will host Lincoln Southeast, Norfolk and either Lincoln North Star or Lincoln Northeast.

Lincoln East 3, Norfolk 2: The Spartans pulled out a thriller in the HAC tournament fifth-place match against Norfolk, rallying from a 2-1 deficit in sets. The East offense was lead by Brooke Peltz with 14 kills and five ace serves, as well as Julia Holz with eight kills. Defensively, Brooke McCartney and Delaney Novy each had 17 digs, and Annalee Ventling-Brown had four blocks. 

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