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College volleyball: West wins thriller against Rochester

BY AARON HAGEN The Globe WORTHINGTON -- Marie Johnson couldn't remember the last time Minnesota West defeated Rochester in volleyball. But that ended Wednesday as the Lady Jays earned a 3-2 victory over Rochester. "It's huge, it's awesome," said ...

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Minnesota West's Joa Ortiz (1) slams the ball over the net in a game with Rochester Wednesday night in Worthington. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)
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BY AARON HAGEN

The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- Marie Johnson couldn’t remember the last time Minnesota West defeated Rochester in volleyball.

But that ended Wednesday as the Lady Jays earned a 3-2 victory over Rochester.

“It’s huge, it’s awesome,” said Johnson, who is in her eighth season as the MW head coach. “It’s kind of frightening that it’s the first match of the season. Definitely we practiced hard and we worked more preseason on team rotation, communication and serve receive. We prepared for Rochester because we know they are always extremely competitive and a tough team. It’s always a little bit nerve-wracking having them at home because they always seem to be our home opener and season opener a lot.”

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Johnson didn’t believe she had beaten the Yellowjackets in her coaching career or her two years of playing at West.

“I think my freshman season we came awfully close, but I’m pretty sure we did not beat them,” she said. “It has been a while.”

The streak nearly continued Wednesday.

RCTC won the first two games, 25-19, 25-23, despite the Lady Jays leading 22-18 in the second set. But West rebounded and held off the RCTC comeback in Game 3, 25-23, before taking the fourth game, 25-22.

Rochester was the first to eight points in the fifth game, but MW rallied for a 15-12 victory.

“We started off a little bit on the rusty side, but we were all nervous,” MW outside hitter Andrea Hinkeldey said. “It’s the first match of the season and it’s all new things. Once we got going, we clicked and there was no doubt that everybody out there could tell. Once we got what we were doing, we had it down good. The little things, talking, that we struggled with in the beginning, we’re still trying to get used to each other. But it’s going to get better as the season goes on.”

Hinkeldey, who was a standout at Heron Lake-Okabena, did not play volleyball last year for West. But she found her way back to the court for the 2017 campaign.

“It made me realize how much I missed my real sport and my main sport,” she said of sitting out a year. “I was like, ‘You know, it’s not going to hurt anything to try, go out there and put everything you have out there.’ We’re a great team this year.”

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If she had any rust, it didn’t show as she had 17 kills and 18 digs, including three key kills in the fifth game that helped turn an 8-7 deficit into a 10-9 advantage.

“You have your things that come, just like riding a bike,” Hinkeldey said. “It’s not like I was out of shape or anything, I did play basketball. The main thing was getting back into the swing of team.”

West struggled with errors early as it recorded five calls of being in the net, giving RCTC half of its first 10 points in Game 1.

“It’s just a matter of nervousness and getting all the jitters out,” Hinkeldey said. “The more you play together, the more you’re going to click and the more you’re going to learn.”

After falling in the first set, MW led 21-17 in the second game. However, the Yellowjackets finished on an 8-2 run.

“We talked in the first two sets that when we got toward the end of the set and it was really close to the set point, our players tended to stop swinging,” Johnson said. “They held back because they didn’t want to make that mistake. That’s when mistakes happen. We absolutely talked in Games 3, 4 and 5 that you need to just go after it.”

West led 19-15 in Game three, only to see RCTC take a 23-22 lead. But a well-placed tip by Joa Ortiz and a hit off a free ball from Hinkeldey and a Rochester attack error gave MW the third game.

The Lady Jays carried that momentum into the fourth set, but again found themselves tied at 22 late. Katherine Ihnen and Hannah Neuman each had a point to close out the fourth game and force a match-deciding fifth set.

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“Making it to Set 5, it was hard to keep a smile off my face, but it’s not over,” Johnson said. “If we got too excited or overly happy and celebrated too early, it could have easily could have gone to Rochester. We had to come out absolutely straight faced knowing that Rochester was going to give everything they had in the fifth set.”

Emma Woelber -- who had an ace serve and a tip for points late in Game 5 -- finished with 49 set assists and 10 digs for West. Ortiz led with 18 kills, while Ihnen had 10. Micheine Morales added 13 digs.

MW (1-0) is home again Wednesday against Riverland.

“We know what we can do,” Hinkeldey said. “And now that we know what we can do, we have to stay hungry and we have to keep pushing. If we put our minds to it, I don’t know if there are that many teams out there who are going to defeat us.”

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Minnesota West Lady Jays volleyball player Andrea Hinkeldey (10) blocks a shot from the Rochester Yellow Jackets Jaycee Anderson (8) Wednesday.(Tim Middagh/The Globe)

Related Topics: COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL
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