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Prep volleyball: Place, Heron Lake-Okabena plunk Worthington

ZACH HACKER/DAILY GLOBE Courtney Place (7) of Heron Lake-Okabena tips the ball past a block attempt by Worthington’s Emma Gerber (11) Tuesday during the Wildcats’ nonconference win over the Trojans in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON — Worthington had its moments, but for the most part Heron Lake-Okabena was in control Tuesday when the two nonconference rivals met up in Worthington.

The Trojans held just two leads all night — neither of which grew larger than one point — and the Wildcats spoiled their home opener with a 25-14, 25-15, 25-13 three-set sweep.

“Coach (Christine Malm) told us to work on being a team and playing as a unit,” said HL-O senior middle Courtney Place, who finished the night with a game-high 17 kills. “I think we did a good job of that. Our kills were spread out, everybody was working on digging and serve receive; we really just worked as a team all night.”

The two squads were close early on as a kill by Emily Shaffer got Worthington within two at 10-8 in the first set. From there, the Wildcats slowly began to pull away. Place had two thundering kills during a 9-1 HL-O run before Rachel Mathias pounded it to the floor to put an exclamation point on the 25-14 win.

The Trojans recovered from a sluggish start in the second set to create a surge of their own. An ace block by Worthington junior Emma Gerber ended a 6-0 Wildcat run to start the set and, for a moment, sent the advantage to the home team’s side of the court. Madison Woll served up three straight points to get her team within two at 6-4, but Place put an end to that with her seventh kill of the evening. Again, HL-O methodically built up its lead and eventually took a 2-0 lead.

“They had some really good moments and we’ve been getting more and more of those every night,” Worthington coach Jessica Hogan said. “Those are the moments we’re trying to build with and build on.”

Worthington kept things tight again at the outset of the third frame. HL-O pulled away to a 9-6 lead, but the Trojans came back to tie it at 9-all.

The Wildcats ended the run there and sent Mathias to the service line. She dropped in nine consecutive points and didn’t relinquish the advantage until one of her teammates was called for being in the net after stretching the lead to 19-9. HL-O closed it out from there and finished off the sweep.

Place led all attackers with 17 kills with Andrea Hinkeldey added 10. Hailey Schumacher led the Wildcats with 23 set assists while Brooke Freking dished out 14.

“Usually Hailey Schumacher sets me up twice and then Brooke does once,” Place said. “They mix that up once in a while to mess up the blockers and tonight they did a good job of doing that to get us open kills.”

Mathias was 25-for-25 with seven aces while Place led HL-O defensively with seven digs.

Gerber finished with a team-high six kills and four ace blocks for the Trojans with Shaffer and Allie Bruns finishing at five kills each. Allison Kremer scooped up six digs with Anneke Weg and Betsy Thompson finishing at five each. Thompson passed out 10 set assists.

The Trojans (0-3 overall, 0-1 Big South) will try to turn things around at 7:30 p.m. Thursday when they play host to Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. HL-O (1-1 overall, 0-0 Red Rock) will open conference play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Okabena against Fulda.

“I’m ready to play again,” Place said. “The next game can’t get here soon enough.”

Zach Hacker

Zach is the Daily Globe sports reporter. He has previously been a sports editor at both the Waseca County News in Waseca, Minn., and The Emporia Gazette in Emporia, Kansas. He is originally from New Richland, Minn., and now lives in Worthington with his dog; a beagle-corgi mix named Homer. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with family and friends, pontooning on St. Olaf Lake and watching professional and collegiate sports.

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