KEARNEY — The Bertrand Vikings know tough competition, so drawing defending state champion Bruning-Davenport-Shickley in the first round of the state tournament didn’t raise many eyebrows too far.
“We kind of had things figured before the pairing came out and figured we would have to play BDS. They have state experience, but any of the top four teams are going to be very good,” Bertrand coach Lisa Mason said. “The last time we qualified for state we had to play returning state champion Johnson-Brock, so why not BDS?”
Bertrand and BDS will square off at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in the Class D2 quarterfinals at Lincoln Northeast High School.
BDS comes into the match with a 27-4 record. The Eagles rely on big hitters Macy Kamler and Regan Alfs who have 272 and 257 kills this season, respectively. Alfs also has a team-high 353 assists.
Mason said the Eagles’ strength is that they don’t make a lot of mistakes and while they have an edge in state tournament experience, they also have the pressure.
Bertrand has some state tournament experience. The Vikings qualified for the state tournament in 2017, their fifth state tournament appearance since 2010. They brought home the fourth-place trophy in 2015 and were the state runner-up in 2011.
The juniors and seniors saw some action in the 2017 match with Johnson-Brock.
“We felt like those same kids stepped up as young players in that game,” Mason said.
But in many respects, this is a very young Bertrand team with only two seniors.
“Our kids have steadily improved over the season. Our young players have gotten stronger and more consistent,” Mason said. “Erin Boggs is a tremendous setter for us and really gets things going. She is very offensive minded and is able to make big plays.”
A junior, Boggs has nearly 800 assists and more than 100 kills. She has a wide variety of attackers who are capable of carrying the load in any match.
Another Viking strength is its serving game that has kept teams off-balance and away from the offense. Senior Jada High has 80 ace serves so far.
Defensively, the Vikings have improved with better and more consistent first contacts. That’s important because the Vikings don’t have a player taller than 5-foot-8.
But size may be their only shortcoming.
“These kids believe that they can win. They don’t know that they are supposed to be the underdog. ... They are very competitive and don’t like to lose,” Mason said.