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Vote: Who should be SBLive’s Nebraska high school athlete of the week (10/31/2023)?

Here are the candidates for SBLive’s Nebraska high school athlete of the week for Oct. 23-29

Here are the candidates for SBLive’s Nebraska high school athlete of the week for Oct. 23-29. Read through the nominees and cast your vote. Voting will conclude Sunday at 11:59 p.m. If you would like to make a nomination in a future week, email athleteoftheweek@scorebooklive.com

Editor’s Note: Our Athlete of the Week feature and corresponding poll are intended to be fun, and we do not set limits on how many times a fan can vote during the competition. However, we do not allow votes that are generated by script, macro or other automated means. Athletes who receive votes generated by script, macro or other automated means will be disqualified. 

Malorie Boesinger – Norris Volleyball

Norris has been to the semifinals each of the past four seasons and twice played for a state championship but came up short in 2020 and 2021. The big question coming into 2023 was whether or not the Titans could keep that momentum rolling while turning the controls of the offense over to a freshman. Boesinger has answered that question resoundingly, totaling 978 assists while guiding Norris to a 31-3 season. Saturday in a district final win over Blair, she set up 32 assists and served up seven aces. It was the 13th time she’s had 30 or more assists and the second time she racked up seven aces.

Ali Brandl – Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family

Get it to Brandl. That was the gameplan that made all the difference in Saturday’s five-set district final win for HLHF over Thayer Central. The Bulldog senior had all kinds of big matches through the course of her senior year, reaching double-digit kills nine times before Saturday. When her team needed her the most, she responded. Brandl piled up 23 kills, served up three aces and dug up 13 shots while HLHF earned its third trip to state in program history. Her 23 kills were a new single-match career best and put her over 300 kills for the season.

Delainey Cast – Syracuse Volleyball

Cast and the Rockets had been to state two years in a row before coming up short last fall in the subdistrict final. Cast, a senior, wasn’t about to let that happen again in Saturday’s district final match against DC West. In one of her best performances of the year, Cast put together a double-double with 22 assists and 14 digs. It was the 17th time this season she had a double-double on kills and digs. Perhaps the best part was her big day put Syracuse over the top against a DC West squad that had beaten the Rockets two other times before Saturday.

Jillian Donovan – Lincoln Lutheran Volleyball

Taking over the controls of the Lincoln Lutheran offense is a major responsibility. The Warriors have won each of the past two Class C-1 state championships and finished fourth or better every year since 2017. Donovan was a minor part of the roster a year ago when Lutheran won its fourth state title. She played in 89 sets but mostly as a rotational sub. The coaching staff turned the offense over to her this year as the starting setter and she’s responded by piling up 911 assists as the Warriors head back to state. Saturday in the district final she had her 12th match with 30 or more sets, reaching exactly that number in a sweep of Maxwell.

Tristyn Hedman – Grand Island Central Catholic Volleyball

Playing in the state tournament is essentially a birthright for anyone who makes it onto the GICC roster. The Crusaders secured their 35th trip to state with a five-set win over Wahoo on Saturday thanks to Hedman’s control of the back row. The GICC senior put together her 12th match with 20 or more digs when she collected 28 in the win and made it three of the last four matches with 20 or more digs. She’s averaging 6.8 digs per set and has 541 total. For her career, Hedman will take 1,189 digs to the state tournament. She had 66 in the state tournament last year.

Hayden Liebsack – Bennington Volleyball

Liebsack has shot to superstardom in her first year of varsity volleyball. The Bennington sophomore has had 10 or more kills in 19 of the past 20 matches and has had five matches with 20 or more kills. Three of those have come in each of the past three for a Badger squad that dropped the subdistrict final but rebounded Saturday for a district final win over Duchesne. Liebsack dominated that one with 24 kills, 10 digs and two blocks. She heads to Lincoln with 465 total kills, 251 digs and 22 blocks. Liebsack is fifth in all of Nebraska in total kills. She might be the difference for a Bennington program looking for its first state title after losing last year in the semifinals.

Jolee Ryan – Overton Volleyball

Ryan is approaching 400 kills for the season and will have a chance to pass that in Lincoln after leading the Eagle attack to a win in Saturday’s district final. The senior came into the match with double-digit kills in five straight matches and made it six when she sent 15 shots to the floor and hit a robust .419 during a sweep over Wauneta-Palisade. Ryan could also go over 1,500 kills for her career at the state tournament. She and the Eagles are looking for a return to the state title match after dropping a five-set defeat last season. Perhaps the most impressive part about Ryan is her career .391 hitting percentage on over 3,200 attempts.

Skylar Scholting – Pierce Volleyball

Nebraska’s leader in set assists was solid again for a Pierce squad that earned its second straight trip to state on Saturday with a sweep of Ogallala. It’s just the second time in school history the volleyball program is going back to state two years in a row since the Bluejays did it in 1973 and 1974. Scholting has been the catalyst for this season’s return trip. This fall she has 1,084 assists and has had 30 or more 17 times in 33 matches. One of those was against Ogallala when she set up 35 and guided an offense that hit .303.

Mallory Springer – Cambridge Volleyball

Springer has been her best at the most important time of the year. The Cambridge setter had five matches with 30 or more assists before Oct. 16 then put together four more since then, nearly doubling that total. In all, it’s been more than 30 assists in four of the past five matches including 38 in a subdistrict title win against Overton and 34 in a district final sweep of Hay Springs. Despite her relative lack of experience, Springer has put together a season with 769 total assists and ranks among the top 40 for all setters in Nebraska.

Jalaa Stewart – Meridian Volleyball

Stewart has been the most consistent player on the Meridian roster over the past two years. She helped lead the Mustangs back to state after a four-year drought last fall when she put together a season with 349 kills and 314 digs. She had 17 kills and 16 digs in the first round of the state tournament but Meridian came up short to Maywood-Hayes Center. She’ll have the chance to move her team further on the state bracket again thanks to a district final win Saturday over Wausa that included 13 kills and 22 digs by Stewart. As the Mustangs head off to state, she has 408 kills and 436 digs on the season.

Maverick Binder – Auburn Football

Auburn had lost its last three postseason games and lost in the first round each of the past two years before Binder’s big night on the ground Friday against Ogallala put an end to all that futility. The Bulldog senior earned his fifth straight game with more than 100 yards rushing when he carried it 26 times for 192 yards and scored four touchdowns. Since putting together his first 100-yard game of the season Sept. 29 against Lincoln Christian, Binder has had 907 rushing yards in the last five weeks and scored 19 touchdowns.

Santi Castillo – Mitchell Football

On a night Neumann put together a dominant upset and ran all over Neumann with a total of over 500 rushing yards, Castillo was the best of the bunch for the Tigers. The senior needed just nine carries to amass 225 yards, an amazing average of 25 yards per carry, and he turned two of those nine carries into touchdowns. Castillo had 100-yard rushing performances in five of his first six games, was held under the century mark each of the past three weeks, then exploded for a career-best that came during the first playoff win in school history.

Isak Doty, Sidney Football

One of the most dynamic quarterbacks in Nebraska was at it again for a first-round playoff win. Doty likely would have been a 1,000-yard passing, 1,000-yard rushing quarterback last year had the Red Raiders made the playoffs. He didn’t need the playoffs to do that this fall, but now that he’s in the postseason, the beat goes on. Doty’s totals in a first-round win over Gothenburg included 7 of 8 passing for 127 yards and a touchdown plus 25 carries for 129 yards and another score. It was the seventh time in 10 games he’s gone for 100/100 as a thrower and a runner.

Hunter Luther, Howells-Dodge Football

Luther might be the best kept secret in eight-man football. The Howells-Dodge sophomore earned just enough playing time for six carries and 77 yards as a freshman. He came into the year with a sophomore, junior and senior in front of him on the depth chart, but is clearly the guy going forward as the Jaguars look for a third straight trip to the state championship game. Luther had six games with more than 100 yards rushing before Friday night’s second round of the D-1 playoffs. And as good as he’s been, that win over Ainsworth was the best. Luther posted a season-best 298 yards on a workhorse-night of 51 carries and three touchdowns.

Blake Macklin, Norris Football

Macklin is a player who wasn’t on a lot of preseason watch lists but who has likely played himself into all-state honors. Following a 3-2 start, Macklin has rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the past five weeks, and Norris has won all five on its way to the playoffs and now a first-round playoff win. Friday in a victory over Grand Island Northwest he went over 200 yards for the third time, carrying it 17 times for 234 and four scores. Macklin is now up to 1,631 yards on the season, 21 touchdowns and is averaging 11.7 yards per carry.

Gage Mintken, Hay Springs Football

Mintken has had a frustrating season that has included injuries that kept him out of three games. The Hay Springs senior turned in a junior season with over 1,200 rushing yards last fall but missed the first game of the season and had just 31 total attempts in the first seven games of the schedule. He was back to his old self in the first round of the playoffs, piling up 231 yards and five touchdowns. He matched that scoring total in Friday’s second-round win over Hampton with 12 carries, 156 yards and five more trips to the end zone for the second week in a row.

Jahmez Ross – Omaha Westside Football

With a lot of stars already on the roster, Ross is adding another to the Westside universe. The Warrior senior went over 1,000 rushing yards for the first time in his career during the final regular season game on the schedule. Friday in a first-round playoff win over Prep, Ross earned his sixth 100-yard rushing performance of the season and scored three times. Ross averaged 10.6 yards per carry on 14 rushes for a total of 149 yards. The three touchdowns matched his best from two other games this season and increased his total to 16. Ross is averaging over nine yards per carry overall.

Breckan Schluter – Exeter-Milligan/Friend Football

Exeter-Milligan/Friend has lost three straight playoff games following a trip to the semifinals in 2018. Schluter put EMF back on the path toward a potential deep postseason run on Friday when he rushed 39 times for 234 yards and four touchdowns in a 26-0 shutout of Shelby-Rising City. It was the sixth time this season he went over 200 yards rushing and the second week in a row. Schulter has scored at least three touchdowns in every game but one this season and now has 2,119 rushing yards to go with 41 touchdowns.

Keenan Valverde – Pierce Football

Pierce’s hopes for a second straight state title and fourth straight state title game are alive and well thanks again to its superstar running back. Valverde picked up his eighth 100-yard game of the season and the 17th of his career in Friday’s playoff win over Roncalli. The Bluejay senior had the second-highest workload of the year with 35 carries, 187 yards and a touchdown. Valverde is up to 1,218 yards and 17 scores in 2023 and will likely go over 3,500 rushing yards for his career next week and could pass 50 touchdowns. His consistency has been impressive. Valverde has 395 attempts in four seasons and is averaging 8.7 yards per carry.

Jeter Worthley – Lincoln East Football

Worthley began building a legacy last fall when he passed for over, 1,700 yards, scored six rushing touchdowns and led the Spartans to the playoffs. As good as he was, it came to an end in the final game of the 2022 regular season when Worthley sustained a shoulder injury and was unable to play in the postseason. He made up for missed time on Friday when he led East to a fourth straight win over rival Southeast and put an end to a short, two-game playoff losing skid. Worthley was 12 of 16 for 131 yards passing and a touchdown plus 23 carries for 163 yards and two more scores on the ground.