The Moundridge High School volleyball team is in a familiar place but with a new captain behind the helm.

The Moundridge High School volleyball team is in a familiar place but with a new captain behind the helm.

The 36-3 Wildcats return to Gross Memorial Coliseum today for the Class 2A state tournament.

Moundridge opens play at 8:30 a.m. against 27-13 Nemaha Valley, a traditional Class 3A power. Moundridge then plays 29-8 Oberlin at 10:30 a.m. and defending state champion St. Mary’s at 12:30 p.m.

Moundridge is the defending third-place team.

“The girls seem to thrive on this ‘do or die’ time of the season,” said first-year coach Bethany Herman. “Instead of being nervous and playing not to lose, they go out with purpose of extending their season as long as possible, and hopefully, for us, that ends on Saturday with a gold medal around our necks. We will have to get through some very tough competitors to do it, but we already beat the undefeated No. 1 team in the state last weekend, so hopefully, that combined with our very tough regular season schedule will give us the edge we need.

“St. Mary’s will be our biggest challenge in our pool, as they played a tough schedule as well, losing only to some ranked 4A and 5A schools and Valley Heights. I don’t know much about the other two teams in our pool, but if we take care of business on our side of the night, we should be able to come out of our first two pool play matches with wins.”

The Wildcats are led by Katie Vogts, who averages 5.1 kills a game, followed by Jessie Vogts at 3.2 kills a game. Both hit better than 40 percent. Jessie Vogts also leads in both blocks and aces. Holli Wolf averages 9.3 assists per game. Kylie Smith leads in digs at 4.0 a game.

“I think that people expected us to be a little down this season,” Herman said.

“We only had three returning letterwinners, and even though Katie is one of the top players in the state, I think people didn’t quite know how the season would turn out with a young new coach and so little experience. The girls have put in so much effort and have stayed dedicated to the program even with all the changes and that's what has led to our success. We’ve improved incredibly from the first night we played. One of our goals was to improve each night we played, and I feel that we've accomplished that.

“We put together three outstanding matches Saturday at sub-state. Our passing was fantastic in every game except game one of the final, and we had some of our role-players step up and make huge plays to keep our season alive. Every team we face obviously pays attention to Katie, so it’s fantastic that we can not be afraid to set someone else and draw the block away from Katie, which opens her up more the next time.”