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Prep volleyball: HL-O tops Worthington in both teams' season opener

Heron Lake-Okabena's Kailee Haberman (4) leaps to hit the ball over the net as teammates Ellyson Bang (7) and Hailey Liepold follow her move Thursday night against Worthington. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 2
Trojan Stephie Bauman (3) sets up a shot for Sophie Wietzema in Thursday's volleyball match with the Heron Lake-Okabena Wildcats. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- The Heron Lake-Okabena High School volleyball team got off to a good start in its season opener on Thursday night, showing the Worthington Trojans that they still have much work to do.

The Wildcats swept the home-standing Trojans 25-14, 25-15 and 25-20.

“For the first game of the season, they were making some good connections,” said HL-O head coach Trista Rhubee about her girls. “I was really happy with our serving and our blocking, and the team attitude.”

Worthington tried to fight its way back into the match and made some progress. But the progress was short-lived, due to the Trojans’ inability to stay on the offense and the Wildcats’ determination not to let down.

“We stayed tough on defense, even when Worthington had some strong attacks,” said Rhubee.

Final statistics revealed Heron Lake-Okabena’s balance. Freshman setter Ellyson Bang had 32 assists. Six-foot sophomore middle hitter Hailey Liepold had seven block assists and two solo blocks with 12 kills. Madison Ruesch had five block assists and nine kills. Bang added eight kills.

Anna Volk was 15-for-17 serving with two aces, and Bang was 12-for-13 with two aces. Bang and Samantha Freking had 16 digs apiece for a team that played near the .500 level in 2017.

The result showed WHS head coach Jessica Hogan where the team is at now, and what they need to do to improve. The Trojans lack height on the front row that they’ve had in recent years, but court coverage was not where it will be at later in the season.

“I think we got better as the night progressed. It’s a work in progress,” said Hogan, who said HL-O’s advantage on the service line also played a part.

“We gotta keep finding our ways to score. We had strong starts. And then we’d have a couple of strings of errors on our side, and we lost the momentum. But to the girls’ credit, they kept working to get something going.”

Madisyn Huisman and Sophie Wietzema had six and four kills, respectively, for WHS. Payton Sauerbrei had nine digs and Stephie Bauman had seven set assists. Bauman was 13-for-14 serving with eight points and two aces.

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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