NCHS athletes honored at annual sports awards show

Kirt Manion
Nebraska City News-Press

Nebraska City High School conducted its annual athletic awards show recently. Below is the second installment of the awards show.

Volleyball

Nebraska City volleyball coach Adam Kuntz said the Pioneer volleyball team for 2020-21 pointed the program in a positive direction.

“Our season was another step in the right direction,” said Coach Kuntz.

Nebraska City won more games than previous seasons, played a number of competitive matches and recorded better numbers in stat categories across the board.

Varsity wins of note included victories over Omaha Gross and a triangular sweep of Auburn and Falls City.

The JV team got a big win over Wahoo and the reserve team got into the act as well with an inspirational win over Beatrice.

Following each season, players vote on awards for varsity, JV and reserve.

Those awards were as follows:

Varsity MVP: Lexi Hoover

Offensive player: Rachel Russell

Defensive player: Katie Schreiter

Newcomer: Laney Denniston

Best Teammate: Rachel Russell

JV MVP: Casey Smith

Offensive player: Brooke Thorne

Defensive player: Tierra Andrew

Newcomer: Jaden Leasure

Best Teammate: Allie Bassinger

Reserve MVP: Jayce Harrah

Offensive player: Jaden Leasure

Defensive player: Emily Moore

Newcomer: Emily and Hailey Moore

Teammate: Allie Bassinger

Other player awards were for Purple Jersey for best player representing the program to Lexi Hoover. The Coachability award to Katie Schreiter. And the Pioneer Potential award to Halle Thompson.

Records set this year were by Rachel Russell, blocks per set; Lexi Hoover, service aces in a season and set assists for a career.

Lexi Hoover was also named as the program’s top award winner.

Girls’ Basketball

Justin Parr opened his time at the microphone by saying that the 2020-21 season didn’t go the way the Pioneers had hoped, but also said the players, from varsity through the roster, have much to be proud of for fighting through adversity when it would have been easier to do otherwise.

Highlights for the season included taking a 17-win team to overtime and coming back from down 23-5 in one game to winning the contest.

Nebraska City showed resolve after taking a 50-point loss to Wahoo by coming back against the same team, on their court, with the same starters, and hanging in for all four quarters before falling by 10.

“I don’t think people fully comprehend how impressive that was,” Parr said. “It takes a lot of guts to step back on the court after getting punched in the mouth like that.

“These girls proved they were willing to battle,” Parr said.

Award winners on the team this year included Katherine Luther, Mya Bartman, Aspen Thurman, Lexi Hoover, Chloe Schaulis, Emily Marth and Katie Schreiter.

Seniors were Reese Madsen, Madi Mitchell, Katherine Luther, Lexi Hoover, Aspen Thurman, Chloe Schaulis and Mya Bartman.

Lexi Hoover was the program’s top award winner.

Cheer

Coach Tiffany Tharp noted the importance of cheer to all athletic programs at Nebraska City in saying that the cheer team served as the face of the school and its top ambassadors.

Kendyl Schmitz was the cheer top award winner.

Wrestling

Coach Tyler Hodges spoke about an impressive wrestling season for the Pioneer program in 2020-21.

The boys’ team recorded a 21-4 dual record falling only to the top two ranked teams in Class B and in Class A.

That would have been enough to get Nebraska City to the state duals this year, but the event was called off due to COVID-19 concerns.

Tournament wise, Nebraska City had three tourney titles and two runner up finishes during the regular season.

The team was third in the first-ever Trailblazer Conference tournament and was runner-up in subdistricts and fourth in districts.

The boys’ program top award winner with a 41-3 record and third place finish at individual state was Mikah Ruiz.

Coach Ron Schaulis took the microphone to talk about the Pioneer girls’ program for this year.

Nebraska City competed in tournaments only and was a top-half finisher in all of those events.

The Pioneers’ focus was on fundamentals and being physical.

The team had no seniors and with all the athletes back, the future looks bright.

A COVID-reduced roster at state still produced an 11th place finish out of 65 teams.

Pacie Lee, who led the team in wins and pins before taking fourth as an individual at state, was the program’s top award winner.

Boys’ Basketball

After a tough start, the Pioneer program, under the direction of Matt Thompson, improved both offensively and defensively and narrowly missed a trip to the district finals.

The team’s 11-12 record features the best win total since 2004.

And the season ended only after the Pioneers’ upset Beatrice at subdistricts before falling to Norris.

Beatrice was a wild card entry into the district finals and went on to win the Class B state title.

“The way we finished the season was a testament to the competitive nature of the kids we have,” said Thompson.

Clay Stovall, a four-year player, was instrumental in helping lift the team from one win as a freshman to 11 wins this year.

He was named as the program’s top award winner.

Girls’ Soccer

Patrick King just completed his third season in leading the Pioneer girls’ soccer program.

Despite a number of new players to the game, King said the Pioneers competed well this year.

“I feel like we were highly competitive,” said King.

The Pioneers’ final game of the season went through double OT to a shootout.

Even in defeat, the team showed that it was more than capable of victory.

Mya Bartman, the team’s goalie, showed invaluable leadership during the campaign and stopped many shots by foes.

That work was recognized as Bartman was named as the program’s top award winner.

Baseball

Experience is key to success on the baseball field and the Pioneer team showed how that was true this year.

Early on, the young Pioneers took their lumps, but by season’s end, the team was stacking together wins and showing what experience brings.

Nebraska City beat rival Beatrice at districts and finished one win away from the state tournament.

Influential senior leaders were Clay Stovall, Cameron Elshire and Colby Hoback.

The program’s top award winner was Clay Stovall who excelled this year and throughout his career as a hitter, a pitcher and a defensive player.

Girls’ Tennis

Nebraska City began the season with 27 players—the most in program history.

Twenty of those players were new to game of tennis. Nebraska City won five duals and lost two more on the last match, meaning that the team was very competitive this year.

The state tournament starts Thursday and the Pioneers will be represented by Sam Fredrichs, No. 1 singles; Valerie Bennie, No. 2 singles; Clarissa and Renae Williams, No. 1 doubles; and Aspen Thurman and Grace McNeely, No. 2 doubles.

Aspen Thurman, a four year varsity player, posted 14 wins this year and as named as the program’s top award winner.

Track

Coach Adam Kuntz  talked about the track team, which had just competed at the Trailblazer Conference meet.

The Pioneers won gold in the 4x800 boys’ race and took second in the 800, Colton Clark, and the shot put, Madi Mitchell.

Coach Kuntz said the Pioneer team did an excellent job of working hard toward success all year to give themselves the best possible shot of a state qualifying position at the district meet.

The top awards winners were, for the girls’ team, Chloe Schaulis and Lexi Hoover and, for the boys’ team, Alex Rico.

Boys’ Soccer

Coach Jessica Rice and the her team were competing at Platteview for districts on the night of the awards show and could not attend.

Coach Rice submitted the following comments for inclusion in this story.

“NCHS Boys soccer had a great season!”

 Our players of the year were Mikah Ruiz, who broke three school records including saves in a game (25) shutouts (6) and saves in a season (199). He is outstanding in the net, he improved so much throughout the season,  alongside one of the strongest defenses we have ever had, kept us in every game we played.

“He continues to show growth and will be a strength for the future of our program.

“Our other MVP was Francisco Rodriguez, who was consistent on both offense and defense, showed integrity, and proved deserving of the award by his effort and leadership.

Fran also broke the school record of goals in a game with four this year. The Pioneers had one of the best soccer seasons in history.

“We were 8-8 on the year, No. 3 in our conference and the district runner up, we also never lost a game by more than two goals.

“Our guys worked hard and found the net 29 times while only allowing 16 goals all season.

“Teamwork was our strength, each player at one point or another could have been our MVP.

“We had the ability to keep going but came up a little short, we will be back next year as we aren’t losing too many players.

“We saw a lot of success and will continue to build on that. Looking forward to another chance to work with these young men.  “Overall, I am extremely Proud of our guys and how they performed this season,” said Coach Rice.

Other awards

Lexi Hoover and Braden Thompson were recognized as a Lifters of the Year. Clay Stovall was recognized for winning a letter for three sports in each of four years.

Lexi Hoover and Clay Stovall were named as top female and male athletes of the year.

Presentations of the athletes of the year were made by last year’s winners Patricia Trice and Eli Southard.

Trice took a page from last year’s presenter on the boys’ side, Bryce Levy, who now only gave out the award but who also gave some inspirational words to the athletes.

Hall of Fame

The 2021 Hall of Fame Class at Nebraska City HIgh School will be the program’s first ever as the Booster Club is establishing a Hall of Fame.

The first class will be as follows:

Cheri Becerra

Brett Clark

Brian Duran

Emily Duran

Logan Ehlers

Frank Graham

Harold Graham

Julie Hermann

Mitch Krenk

Jason Stoll

Chuck Stoner

Ellie Windle

And the 1985 state champion boys’ track team.

Nebraska City will induct these members at the first home football game of the 2021 season.

Each year, the program will add six to seven names to honored list.