PREP VOLLEYBALL: Huskies prevail in fourJACKSON — In what is always a highly-anticipated high school volleyball match each late-September, the Jackson County Central Huskies and the Windom Eagles treated a packed-house of fans to an exciting and well-played Southwest Conference battle between two perennial quality teams.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
JACKSON — In what is always a highly-anticipated high school volleyball match each late-September, the Jackson County Central Huskies and the Windom Eagles treated a packed-house of fans to an exciting and well-played Southwest Conference battle between two perennial quality teams.
After the visiting Eagles controlled the net and soared to a seven-point victory in the opener (25-18), the Huskies regrouped and utilized an improved passing game to allow veteran setter Michelle Van Epps to distribute the ball to an effective arsenal of JCC attackers and the home crowd had more and more to cheer about as the evening progressed.
JCC won the match, 3-1, taking three straight sets by scores of 25-12, 25-17 and 25-11.
“We came out a bit tight and Windom took it to us,” exclaimed JCC head coach Teresa Van Epps. “The Eagles are always very well-coached and they out-hustled us, they served hard and they made very few hitting errors.”
Paced by the blocking efforts of the trio of Shelby Mattson, Holly Larson and Kelsey Hanefeld, the Eagles ignited their large cheering section by storming out to impressive early leads of 7-2, 10-3 and 13-5 before opening up a pair of 10-point advantages (17-7 and 18-8).
The Huskies, sparked by the left-handed right-side kills of senior 6-0 senior Lydia Brandt (14 kills, three blocks) began coming back, slicing the gap to 22-15 and 23-18.
But, three straight JCC missed serves had allowed the Eagles to maintain a lead and a middle kill by Larson, a 5-11 senior middle hitter, put Windom at game point.
Game 1 ended on a JCC error — one of 12 by the Huskies in the opener.
“We gave Windom 12 points in that first game,” Coach Van Epps declared. “We missed four serves and we had eight hitting errors.”
JCC wins Game 2 big, snaps 10-10 tie in exciting Game 3
But things began to get better for the Huskies from the beginning of the second game.
An ace serve by Michelle Van Epps helped stake JCC to an early 3-1 lead.
The Eagles capped a 3-1 rally with kill by Larson (10 kills, four blocks), but the Huskies rattled off 11 straight points, as Brandt, Jasmine Erickson (nine kills, six blocks, 13 digs) and Sydnee Donnelli (nine kills, two blocks, five digs, 18-of-19 serving) took turns pounding the ball at the Eagles.
“When our passing improved, our setting got better and we were able to attack from more angles and get through Windom’s blocks,” summed up Teresa Van Epps about her team’s improved performance. “We had to decide if we were going to be fragile like eggs or if we would be like super balls and bounce back.”
The Huskies bounced back in style, controlling Game 2, eventually claiming a huge 22-6 lead before knotting the match with a 25-12 win.
The winning point in Game 2 came off a thundering down-the-line left-side kill by 5-7 sophomore outside hitter Kaylee Burmeister, who finished the night with a match-high 17 kills to go along with 20 digs and a 12-of-14 serving performance.
Michelle Van Epps (45 set assists, nine digs, two kills, two blocks, 18-of-19 serving with four aces) opened Game 3 with a deep ace serve and back-to-back kills by Burmeister and Donnelli lifted JCC to an early 5-2 lead.
Following a pair of great saves by 5-7 sophomore libero Kathyrn Nasby (20 digs), who was a perfect 25-of-25 serving, the Huskies claimed a 10-6 advantage and seemed to be in control.
But, the Eagles rallied helped by an ace serve from 5-5 sophomore libero Jasmine Carlson (match-high 24 digs) and a dandy save by 5-4 junior defensive specialist Hannah Kloss to tie the score at 10-10.
Then after the Eagle fans believed they had taken the lead when a JCC block attempt may have sailed out of bounds, a replay was called.
On what was likely the longest rally of the entire match, the Huskies earned the point and also scored the next when Windom’s spike landed out.
A nifty play at the net by Mattson — a versatile 5-8 senior who finished the match with six solo blocks, six kills, 11 set assists, 10 digs and two ace serves on a 12-of-13 serving night — brought the Eagles to within one point, 12-11.
But, the Huskies countered with an impressive 6-0 run, opening up a 17-11 cushion, capped by another right-side kill by Brandt.
“Brandt was really the difference maker,” declared veteran Windom head coach Ron Wendorff. “She is very athletic at the net and hits the ball hard from different angles, making her to difficult to defend.”
Holding a six-point edge, the Huskies continued to hold off the Eagles — who received a highlight down-the-line kill from Hanefeld (four blocks) — as they stayed close until JCC scored five of the last seven points to earn its eight-point win.
Huskies earn 9-4, 12-6 and 19-7 leads in Game 4 win
Game 4 continued to be controlled by the Huskies, who finished the match with 55 kills and scored 14 points on ace blocks.
“Early in the match, we blocked well,” noted Wendorff. “But as the match progressed, it was JCC’s blocking that really turned things around.”
Windom had numerous hitting errors in Game 4, as the Eagle attackers tried to counter JCC blocks and hit several shots long.
The Huskies capitalized on those mistakes and played a solid floor game themselves, claiming leads of 9-4, 12-6 and 19-7 before finishing the match on a 6-4 run, highlighted by a powerful left-side kill by Donnelli, an athletic 5-7 senior outside hitter, who played despite recovering from a badly sprained ankle.
Erickson, who displayed some impressive “hang time” on several of her middle hits was also impressive, hammering a spike to the floor for JCC’s 24th point.
The match ended when a Windom spike sailed out and the Huskies, who host Blue Earth Area Monday, improved to 11-4 for the season and are now 2-1 in the conference.
Windom, which received perfect serving performances from both Hali Tasler (13-of-13) and Rachel Sorenson (10-of-10), is 13-4 overall and 2-2 in the Southwest.
Tasler had 20 digs for the Eagles and Sami Peterson put up six set assists for the Eagles, who travel to Trimont Tuesday to play Martin County West.