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College volleyball: Lady Jays lose in five games

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WORTHINGTON — Trailing two games to one on the road, Rochester Yellowjackets volleyball coach Amber Zitzow knew she needed a game-changer.

She found it by making a lineup switch, using 5-7 setter Lindsay Ayers to attack the ball-in pass and inserting 5-6 freshman Amber Dunagan in to set. Five-ten sophomore hitter Chanda Riedemann had been showing some inconsistency at the net, so she took her out of the front row and put her in the back row.

The result was dramatic. Rochester, which won the first game of Wednesday’s match 25-15 before losing the next two 24-26 and 20-25, dominated the next two games to earn a 3-2 victory and advance to 6-1 on the season.

Game 4 on the Worthington High School gym went 25-5 the Jackets’ way. Game 5 ended 15-9.

Zitzow chalked it up, in part, to the leadership she entrusts to her four sophomores, Taylor Aakre, Ayers, Riedemann and Jenica Gerber.

“We have four great sophomores. I really listen to them a lot. I get a lot of feedback,” Zitzow said.

For Minnesota West, now 1-2, the match was a learning experience. Head coach Marie Johnson spoke of a lull in the Lady Jays’ communication. So did freshman Brittney Hermeling, a 5-5 freshman from Fulda who led West with three ace serves.

“If we would have kept talking and kept our energy up, we would have definitely been in the fifth game,” Hermeling said. “We just need to realize that if our energy’s down, so are the points in our games.”

“They came out and took control,” Johnson testified of the Yellowjackets’ comeback efforts. “And our communication kind of diminished in that fourth game.”

Rochester put together the match’s first scoring run midway in the first game, breaking free from a 5-5 tie to score 10 of the next 11 points. The second game was tight throughout and so was the third.

But in the fourth, Rochester roared out of the gate, overpowering Minnesota West at the net for a fast 4-0 lead. West’s troubles multiplied. The Jays seemed unsettled on defense, sporadic with their attacks at the net and clearly not in sync. Gerber closed out the game with three hard spikes as the Jackets finished the game with 11 straight points.

Rochester jumped out to a 6-1 lead in the fifth game as West proved unable to hit through a solid wall of blocks. A soft Dunagan ace to an open spot in the middle of the Lady Jay defense ended the match.

Tailor Raymond, a 5-11 freshman from St. Peter, led Rochester in kills with 13. Haley Lenz had 20 digs and Ayers 24 set assists.

For Minnesota West, Kristen Andersen, a 5-10 freshman from Worthington, led in kills with 12, and Tiffany Gehl added nine. Morgan Harberts had 17 set assists and Maddie Rasche had 19 digs.

Afterward, coach Johnson pointed out that the result was not a total loss. “Overall, the girls played really well. Games two and three were awesome,” she said. “They were playing Lady Jay volleyball.”

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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