WORTHINGTON -- Carrie Rutledge is listed at 5-foot-8, but the Rochester Community College volleyball star plays a little taller than that.
Her vertical jump?
“I don’t know,” Rutledge laughed. “I really don’t. I just go up and hit the ball.”
And she hits it very, very hard.
The high-flying Rutledge had 19 kills to lead the unbeaten Rochester CC Yellowjackets to a straight-set triumph over the Minnesota West Lady Jays Wednesday night in a Minnesota College Athletic Conference clash at the Center for Health and Wellness.
Rochester, which is No. 1 this week in the NJCAA Division III national rankings, defeated No. 10 Minnesota West 25-22, 25-16, 25-19.
The match was highly competitive. Most often Rutledge made the difference with her clutch kills.
“She’s an All-American, and she shows it every time she goes up to swing,” said Minnesota West coach Brittney McNab. “No matter where she is on that court, the middle, the right or the left, she proves a point. Definitely. She knows how to control the pace of the game.”
Brekkin McCready had more than a dozen assists, three kills and two aces for Rochester, which improved to 14-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play.
And the Yellowjackets weren’t even at full strength, as 6-1 sophomore spiker Hayley Dessner, who averages 4.26 kills per game, was sidelined with a concussion.
“We had girls in positions they really hadn’t played before,” Rutledge said. “Everyone did their job and we got the win. Minnesota West is a very good team, so to have girls play in new positions, it was huge for us.”
Rutledge had eight kills in the first set as Rochester rallied. Minnesota West led several times in the opening moments of the match by as many as four points.
A Rutledge smash of a spike gave the Jackets a 15-14 lead. Her clutch kill moments later gave Rochester the lead for good at 23-22.
“She’s an amazing player and a hard worker,” said Rochester coach Amber Zitnow. “But so is everybody else on our team. If we didn’t have a setter like Brekkin McCready, if our three defensive players who usually don’t play a lot -- Jessica Storm, Madison Sawyer and Gabby Speltz -- they’re all three playing out of position and then Molly is not usually in the middle. … They’re all playing great.”
Minnesota West, which fell to 6-3 and 0-2, didn’t have the lead in the final two sets.
“We just have to figure out how to finish,” McNab said while looking at her team’s statistics. “We’ve got attack attempts, but we just don’t have the kills. We’ve got to put the ball away more consistently.”
Several freshmen played well at times for the Jays. Tyra MedicineHorn of Lake Andes, S.D., showed flashes of excellence in all phases and 5-11 Alanna Goetzinger of Chatfield was often exceptional at the net. Paetyn Smit of Edgerton also performed well.
Sophomore setter Emma Woelber led the Jays with 25 assists and six kills. Smit and Goetzinger had seven kills each.
“Emma was solid, and Kiana (Leighty) and Grace (Woelber) in the back row -- you can’t get much by them,” McNab said.
Smit had 16 digs and Leighty added 14.
Rochester finished third in the nation a year ago and lost only nine times. Rutledge, who is from tiny Hayfield in the southeastern part of the state, was a first team All-American.
Might the Yellowjackets be even better than the team that achieved so much last winter?
“Our chemistry’s better,” Zitnow said. “I think we could be better.”
The eighth-year Rochester coach and former Winona State volleyball player said Minnesota West was impressive.
“They fought hard and they were scrappy,” Zitnow said. “We knew it was going to be hard playing here, because they always have a lot of fans and it’s loud. It’s us against the world when we come here.”
The Lady Jays are back at the Center for Health and Wellness Monday night at 6:30 p.m. to take on Iowa Lakes.