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jordan willi/daily globe SWU's Alyssa Hendrickson (8) smashes a kill by WHS's Brooke Henning (left) and Becca Linder in a game Tuesday in Worthington.

PREP VOLLEYBALL: Wildcats hand Trojans their 1st loss

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WORTHINGTON -- The Worthington volleyball team suffered their first loss of the season Tuesday night, losing 3-1 to the Southwestern United Wildcats, who picked up their first win of the season.

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"We focused on being mentally ready this week," Wildcats coach Christine Malm said. "I think they came out, first set, first point, ready to play. They were just doing their game."

SWU opened up the scoring with two straight aces by Mandy Henkels on their way to a 3-0 lead before Worthington picked up their first point of the night.

The first game was a story of runs for both teams. The Wildcats were able to take a big lead on the back of two runs of five-straight points or more, while the Trojans were only able to pick up six points compared to SWU's 13. The two runs left the Wildcats holding an 18-9 lead on the back of two aces on the serve.

"Everyone was in sync with everyone; not just the people on the floor, but everyone on the bench too," Malm said. "Every single person was involved. And, even at a varsity level, as intense and competitive as it needs to be, it needs to simply be fun. And I think they were genuinely having fun, while also being focused."

The Wildcats took the first game by a score of 25-16 after taking the last three points of the game.

"Things were off and we really couldn't get out of the hole," Trojans coach Melissa Schutz said. "It was just the night. The kids didn't have their focus and they had too many mental errors and unforced errors."

SWU jumped out to an early 15-6 lead in Game 2 before the Trojans strung together eight points to cut the Wildcats lead to one on the back of three kills by Brooke Henning (two aces, 15 kills) and an ace by K. C. Riley (two aces, 10 digs). But the inconsistencies on Worthington's side of the court allowed SWU to go on a run of their own, taking eight of the next 10 points to take a 23-16 lead.

"We were really focued and having fun; that was the key," Wildcats middle hitter Alyssa Hendrickson (14 kills, seven blocks) said. "I think that we were just really determined to beat them and get a good win. Our passes, our sets, our hits; they were all on tonight."

The Trojan's tried to fight back, picking up the next four points to make it 23-20, but the Wildcats grabbed a victory once again on the back of two-straight points. The score was 25-20 in favor of SWU.

"We always had the momentum on our side and we were making it really intense even though the score might not have always been close," Courtney Place (19 kills, four blocks, nine digs) said.

Game 3 started out much like the first two games, with SWU taking an early lead. But this time, Worthington refused to lie down. The Trojans took 17 of the next 21 points giving them a 17-7 lead.

The Wildcats made a game of it late in the match with the Trojans leading 22-9. A shot into the net by Worthington gave SWU the chance to close the gap, picking up eight of the next nine points to cut the lead to six. But the Trojans were determined to get a win and finished off the Wildcats on two straight plays to take the 25-17 win.

In the fourth game, the Wildcats once again took an early lead, taking 11 of the first 15 points to build an 11-4 lead. The Trojans came right back, taking seven of the next 10 points to bring themselves within three points of tying the game.

But in the end, the Wildcats were too much for the Trojans. SWU took 11 of the last 16 points to grab the third game and claim a 3-1 victory on the night.

"They were determined that set to push as many points as they could in that third set," Malm said. "I think that carried over into the fourth set. They did a really good job of transferring from the third game into the fourth game. And being in the zone and knowing what to do."

The Trojans (3-1) will look to rebound from their first lose of the season when they host Pipestone Area Thursday at 7:15 p.m.

"We need to prepare better for the game and feed off the positives of the game and build off them," Schutz said. "We need to refocus and work on our severe/receive and ball control going forward."

The Wildcats hope to build on their first win of the year when they host Edgerton Thursday at 5 p.m. in Okabena.

Daily Globe Reporter Jordan Willi

may be reached at 376-7335.

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