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College volleyball: The two Rs are tough for Lady Jays

Aaron Hagen Daily Globe WORTHINGTON -- The home schedule hasn't been kind to the Minnesota West volleyball team. In their last home match, the Lady Jays faced off against nationally-ranked Rochester. On Wednesday, MW battled Ridgewater, another t...

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JESSE TRELSTAD/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West’s Becca Linder (6) jumps for the block after Ridgewater’s Alyssa tern (5) spikes it over the net Wednesday night in Worthington.

Aaron Hagen
Daily Globe

WORTHINGTON - The home schedule hasn’t been kind to the Minnesota West volleyball team.
In their last home match, the Lady Jays faced off against nationally-ranked Rochester. On Wednesday, MW battled Ridgewater, another top team in the MCAC Southern Division.
“We’ve had tough competition all season,” MW head coach Marie Johnson said. “The Southern Division always brings very tough matches and opponents. Rochester and Ridgewater back to back for home events is pretty tough competition.”
The Warriors came away with a sweep Wednesday night.
“This is always a tough place for us to play historically,” Ridgewater head coach Joe Sussenguth said. “I appreciated our discipline for the most part. We made some aggressive errors, which is what we do sometimes. To be able to hold our composure through those mistakes and finish in a three-set win is great for us.”
Game scores were 25-9, 25-12 and 25-16.
“This evening, we woke up a little bit late,” Johnson said. “I think halfway through the third set is when we actually started playing well. Unfortunately there was definitely seven or eight points lead at that time that Ridgewater had over us. It’s hard to start chipping away halfway through a set. But the girls definitely fought hard. I think there are things we can work on and do better, but Ridgewater is talented. They always play really well.”
The Warriors were led by Natalie Feldhake and Brenna Olsen, who each had eight kills on the night. Kaitlyn Sterner had a team-best 30 set assists, while Hailey Leiding had four blocks. Lexie Skoglund finished with seven digs, while Sterner, Alexis Peters and Feldhake each had three ace serves.
“Sometimes when you get an easy ball over from the other side or an easy serve, the passers kind of take a break and offensively your hitters don’t transition. We did those things. I didn’t really have to remind them of that,” Sussenguth said. “We were able to run what we wanted offensively and got some good looks and good matchups. Offensively, I couldn’t be more pleased.”
The Lady Jays were led by Rebecca Kazemba, who finished with five kills. Becca Linder had three kills and two blocks, while Bailey Tish had three kills and six digs. Dani Hermeling finished with seven set assists and six digs, while Erin Swenson had an ace serve and eight digs.
Minnesota West scored the first point of the night on a Linder tip, but RW answered with an 11-2 run. Another 8-0 run late in the game sealed the victory for the Warriors.
RW picked up where it left off in the second game, jumping out to an 11-3 lead -forcing a MW timeout.
“Tonight it seemed like we got stuck in a lot of different places,” Johnson said. “Pretty much, we practice transitioning and where our defensive coverage should be, but it was really kind of we expected ‘X’ to mark the spot and just kind of have the ball go to that. Unfortunately, that’s not how volleyball works, so we have to make sure we’re moving constantly.”
The Lady Jays struggled to score consistently as the Warriors opened up a two-game lead.
The third game was a different story from the beginning.
A kill by Tish early kept the score close as the Warriors weren’t able to create any separation.
Leading 8-7, RW went on an 8-0 run, capped by a kill by Olsen. The Warriors opened up as much as a 20-9 lead late in the game.
But MW wasn’t going quietly.
“That’s to be expected; historically, Minnesota West doesn’t go away,” Sussenguth said. “They are going to keep battling and battling no matter what type of adversity they’ve been going through on their side. That’s typical college volleyball, you have to finish all the way through the third set. Credit to them for battling on and I’m just glad to get out of here with a win.”
A pair of mishits by RW gave the Lady Jays some momentum. A block by Kazemba brought the game within seven points, 20-13.
“Once we kind of decided to start moving our feet, we definitely were scrappier, which was how we’ve kind of been playing through this season,” Johnson said. “We have been a pretty scrappy team. We definitely chased some balls down from digs that in previous matches may have just been let go.”
The Lady Jays continued to chip away at the lead and trailed by just five, 21-16. But that would be as close as MW would get as a pair of Warrior blocks sealed the sweep.
“The biggest thing that I’m proud of is they never gave up tonight, they kept playing,” Johnson said. “With some of the scores starting out as they did, it would have been easy to see everyone deteriorate and go their own way. But we did the opposite. We definitely tried to pick each other up and tried to get a little more enthusiasm and excitement. The only problem was it was a little late in the set, so it makes it really an uphill battle to try to come back. But they worked hard to do that.”
The Lady Jays are at St. Cloud on Saturday before returning home to face Western Tech on Wednesday, which entered this week with a 2-7 overall record.
“We always want to play our game, whether we’re playing an outstanding team or a team that has a record that reflects the ability on their team, we definitely want to play our game,” Johnson said. “That’s what we’re going to focus on and work on, some of those components that are going to make us stronger as a competitor.”

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JESSE TRELSTAD/DAILY GLOBE Minnesota West’s Erin Swenson comes up short diving for the ball at Wednesday night’s college volleyball match against Ridgewater.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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