College volleyball: Lady Jays thrill in 3-0 win over Ridgewater
By AARON HAGEN
WORTHINGTON -- Andrea Hinkeldey said it was a test.
In both of the first two games Wednesday, Hinkeldey and the Minnesota West volleyball team trailed late.
“It’s kind of almost like a test to see mentally if we’re prepared to have to see the scoreboard that we’re down and we have to come back,” she said.
Turns out, the Lady Jays passed with flying colors.
West rallied each time and then held off a Ridgewater comeback in the third set to claim a sweep.
“They are a good team,” Hinkeldey said following the 26-24, 25-23, 25-23 victory. “I think our high point tonight was communication. We had a lot more communication than they did. Every little thing counts. When you have the little things going for you, they come together.”
With a first-year head coach in Rebecca Colon and a new team, communication had been an issue in West’s first four matches in which they went 1-3.
“The girls played with a lot of heart, we’ve been lacking some communication and we’ve had some growing pains,” Colon said. “We’re still all getting used to each other. But they definitely showed they are capable of winning and capable of playing together.”
That was evident early and often. West trailed 19-12 late in Game 1. But a block and a kill from Hinkeldey helped turn the momentum. A few points later, Hinkeldey had a kill and Emily Shaffer followed with one of her own. Following a pair of miscues from Ridgewater, West has its first lead, 21-20.
“The girls are in a bad habit of getting down and wanting to fight back, instead of starting with a ton of energy and closing out the game from the very beginning,” Colon said. “As soon as they turned up the score, I called that timeout, they know it’s game time. They know it’s time to come out and close it and not just give up. That’s something I actually admire from these girls, they have the heart to come and play to win.”
Kiana Leighty made big plays down the stretch for MW as it closed out the first game.
The second game was more of the same as West found itself trailing 20-13.
“Whenever we come to the middle, the first thing is, ‘I know we’re tired, but we have to push,’” Hinkeldey said. “When we start getting tired, we start getting sloppy. And when we start getting sloppy, things fall apart. But if we put our minds to it and push past that little part, thinking we’re going to be done in three and we’re not going to be as tired as if we played two more games.”
Shaffer and Hinkeldey had back to back kills as West went on a 6-1 run and was within two points. Ridgewater answered with a pair of points and led 23-19. However, those were the last points for the Warriors as Hinkeldey had a kill, Leighty put away a free ball and Haley Unke had a well-placed tip to seal the 25-23 win.
The third set was a different story as the Lady Jays led most of the way. With a 23-17 advantage, the sweep was all but certain. However, the next six points went to the visitors as the match was tied at 23, forcing Colon to use a timeout.
“They definitely got a little comfortable the last set,” Colon said. “That’s why I used my last time out, just to get their energy back up so they remember we’re here to close out a match, not just a game.”
With the score tied, West’s Kodie Henderson hit a ball that collided with the top of the net and trickled over for the 24th point.
“That almost gave me a heart attack, but it worked,” Colon said. “It was definitely a turning point.”
From there, MW closed out the sweep.
Hinkeldey finished with 14 kills. Leighty had eight and Shaffer finished with seven.
“This is my first time on the court this year. I wasn’t going to play, but they talked me into it two weeks ago, so I came to practice. Here I am,” Hinkeldey said. “I couldn’t have done it without the passers and setters. A hitter is nothing without their setter. Me and Haley are really starting to connect. Knowing that we’re starting to connect and have that feeling, it’s going to make it that much better knowing she’s going to put it where I want it.”