Eagles make their points
WORTHINGTON — In a game full of momentum shifts, the Southwest Christian Eagles fought off a desperate rally by the Worthington Trojans to win Game 4 and claim a 3-1 victory in their first volleyball match of the season.
“It is nice to see our team play this well even though we are really young,” SWC coach Brian Busker said. “There were some jitters early on from some of our younger players who were a little tentative going after some of those balls. But not many of these kids played a lot of minutes last year, so it is basically a new team. But we are finding our way yet. We settled in there after the first 10 points or so, and I think we played pretty well.”
After the Eagles took an early 10-5 lead in Game 4, the Trojans made a mini rally to cut the lead to three with an ace by Paige Gravenhof and several errors by SWC. However, the Eagles once again took command of the game, outscoring the Trojans 6-2 to extend their lead to seven and forcing Worthington coach Jessica Hogan to call a timeout.
Following the timeout, Worthington came roaring back, picking up six of the next seven points to cut SWC’s lead down to two. Allie Bruns scored three of the Trojans’ six points on kills during the run.
“We let them go on some runs there and before we knew it they had the lead or we were only up by one or two,” Busker said. “That momentum was huge because if it is a close game you are nervous already and that builds pressure, so you have to learn to just try to get the ball back on our side so we can do something with it.”
The Eagles finally stopped the Trojans’ rally with a kill by Jasmin Kruisselbrink, then closed out the game with two more points on an ace by Brooke Mouw and a kill from Ann Pater to get the 25-20 win.
“We really were focusing on staying relaxed and getting first pass and working from there,” SWC’s Mouw (10 kills) said. “We just wanted to come out and prove ourselves tonight. I think people kind of underestimate us because we are a young team, but we want to show that we are ready and can win.”
Southwest Christian came out strong in the first game and capitalized on a number of errors by Worthington to claim a 25-10 win. The Eagles picked up five aces and six kills to help them keep the momentum on their side.
“Our passes and communication started everything off and we just let it build from there,” SWC defensive specialist Sydney Esselink said. “Once you get a good pass, you can get a good set and then a good spike.”
The Trojans trailed 20-13 late in Game 2, but strung together 12 straight points to complete the rally and steal the second set 25-20. Worthington used kills by Whitney Jensen and Bruns along with an ace block by Becca Linder (nine kills) to take control of the game. Abbie Landgaard (21-22 serving for 16 points) also added two aces from the line in the rally.
In Game 3, SWC opened up a 19-15 lead halfway through the set, but Worthington clawed its way back into the game tying it at 23 on the back of three straight kills by Linder.
“I think for us the biggest thing for us is talking because we have sophomores, juniors and seniors on the team and we haven’t played together before,” Mouw said. “We are just working on talking and becoming more of a team.”
But the Eagles would not be denied the win. Tiana Top spiked the ball past a Worthington block to give SWC a 24-23 lead and Esselink finished off the set with a kill of her own to five the Eagles the 25-23 win in Game 3.
“We just tried to relax and concentrate on the first pass,” Esselink said. “We wanted to concentrate on the play that is happening not what happened in the past.”
One of the keys to the Eagles win was the player’s ability to never give up on the play and keep the ball off the ground at all costs.
“We’ve focused a lot on defense since Day 1 and we’ve been implementing some new and different techniques,” Busker said. “We’ve been working on those things every day since the start and that has really helped a lot.”
Southwest Christian (1-0) hosts Luverne Thursday, while Worthington travels to New Ulm to take on the Eagles.