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College volleyball: Balanced Minnesota West wins in four games

Minnesota West Lady Jays celebrate a point in the first game with Western Technical College. From left: Andrea Hinkeldey, Bailey Wagner, Haley Unke, Stephanie Pizarro and Emily Shaffer. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)1 / 2
The Lady Jays' Emily Shaffer (10) tips the ball over the outstretched fingers of Cavaliers Lauren Koss (8) and Jamie Schultz (3). (Tim Middagh / The Globe)2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- If you didn’t attend the match, all you had to do was glance at the final statistics to see that the Minnesota West Lady Jays were balanced in their performance against Western Tech Wednesday night.

In a match that saw the volleyball squad prevail in four sets, the Jays were proficient in every phase. Haley Unke had 37 set assists. Andrea Hinkeldey had 22 kills, Kiana Leighty 11 and Emily Shaffer 10. Hinkeldey led the way with 15 digs, with Leighty getting 12.

Leighty and Shelby Pourier contributed three ace serves apiece. Bailey Wagner had five blocks, Shaffer four and Hinkeldey three.

Playing on their home floor, the Lady Jays won the first game 25-21. They lost the second 19-25 but rallied back to win games three and four 25-23 and 25-13.

“Every game, we started out well. We came out swinging, we came out firing,” said head coach Brittney McNab. “Haley was definitely solid. She’s our quarterback and when she’s on she’s on. Definitely solid hitting all the way. When they get the ball where they need it to be, they can put ‘em away. It all starts with our passing, though. We were pretty solid.”

In the hitting department, Hinkeldey -- who can sometimes be dominant -- was dominant, striking the ball hard and sharp consistently. Wagner had three of her five blocks in the first game. Unke set the tone as Hinkeldey, Shaffer and Leighty got themselves ready at the net.

Western Tech took advantage of a little lull in communication by the Jays in the second game, and a little bit in the third.

After West outscored the Cavaliers 7-1 to begin the third, Tech rallied to come within a point at 23-22. But West controlled it at the end as Hinkeldey’s ace hit scored the 24th point and Unke delivered an ace serve for No. 25.

The Lady Jays sustained their good start in the fourth game all the way to the end. Shaffer got the match-winner on an ace block after a lengthy rally.

Leighty, a freshman who played her high school volleyball at Heron Lake-Okabena, is about as schooled as they come regarding how to approach the sport. She coaches Junior Olympic volleyball at HL-O and also coaches grades 5-8 at the Worthington Christian School. She’s only five feet, six inches tall, but she plays bigger due to her understanding of the game and her obvious athletic skill.

“It’s taught me alot,” she referenced her coaching responsibilities. “My attitude has to stay up, ‘cuz they’re younger girls, and you have to keep up their attitudes.”

On Wednesday, Leighty noted that her Lady Jays were able to get their mojo back in the third game.

“We talked more,” she said.

McNab, who took over the program in mid-season, almost smiled when she recalled the team’s brief communication breakdowns.

“They talk through practice, and they’re non-stop,” she said. “Then they come here and they’re a little nervous. … I think it’s the mid-week hump.”

Whew! Well, that’s over.

The weekend is coming. Minnesota West will host MState-Fergus Falls at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, then host St. Cloud Tech at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

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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