Clinch blocks

Kearney Catholic’s Sarah Clinch (5) goes up to block a spike during last season. Clinch is one of seven returning starters for the Stars, who had an 18-12 record last year.

KEARNEY — Kearney Catholic hasn’t qualified for the girls state volleyball tournament since 2016. The Stars’ last state title came in 2015, which marked their fourth consecutive championship.

The Stars have averaged just 17 wins over the last two seasons but return a plethora of talent from last year’s roster. The Stars return seven starters and two other key contributors from last season.

Sarah Clinch, a 6-foot senior middle blocker, is the Stars’ top returner after she led the team with 2.9 kills per set and a 48.1 kill percentage last season. She also posted a team-high 72 blocks a year ago.

Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Keck also is one of the Stars top returning starters after she had a notable freshman campaign and ranked second on the team in kills.

Senior middle blocker Ainsley Aiden, junior middle blocker Jill Collins, junior right side Julia McReynolds and junior defensive specialists Ashlyn Wischmeier and Ella Bruggeman also are returning starters for the Stars this season.

The Stars will have to replace setter Olivia Micek, who was the 2018-19 Kearney Hub Territory Player of the Year. Micek orchestrated the Stars’ offense due to her experience and skill level to average 7.4 assists per set last season.

Sophomore Syd Conner is the projected starter at setter this season. She played in 84 sets as a freshman, tallying two kills, 49 digs, 30 ace serves and 65 assists.

In the offseason, the Stars added a transfer in Josie Denney from Minden. Denney was a defensive specialist and played in 75 sets as a freshman for Minden last year.

“We are excited about our progress this summer and return a good nucleus of passers and attackers,” coach Kris Conner said. “This is the third year in our new conference, the Centennial Conference, and we have our eye on being a top contender this year.”

The Stars begin the season at Columbus Scotus at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 29. Their home opener is set for Aug. 31 when they hold the Kearney Catholic Triangular with St. Cecilia and David City Aquinas.

daniel.zielinski@kearneyhub.com

@DanZielinski3​

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