Lady Jays beaten in showdown of nationally-ranked teams
WORTHINGTON -- A spirited third-game effort in front of a spirited home crowd wasn’t enough to pull the Minnesota West Lady Jays volleyball team to victory Friday night against nationally-ranked St. Cloud Tech.
The Cyclones earned their nickname in a 25-19, 25-8, 27-25 triumph at the Center for Health and Wellness in Worthington.
Friday’s match pitted a Tech team ranked ninth in NJCAA Division III against an eighth-ranked Lady Jays team. Only one day earlier, the Jays lost their first match of the season on the road at Dakota Wesleyan, but they took a solid 6-1 record into Friday.
The first game began at a high level of play, but it was clear at the outset that the St. Cloud Tech offense would give the Jays some fits. Taller than the Lady Jays, the Cyclones also were strong leapers. They took sets high and hit down hard, and their power took a toll on the Jays, who never fully settled into their offense.
After losing a one-sided second game, West went on the attack. But it wasn’t enough.
“They’ve got the height. That’s what I said, you can’t block a girl who hits literally over the top of you,” said Minnesota West coach Brittney McNab. “We rely on our serve receive and our passing, and that just wasn’t there. We weren’t allowed to even play our offense.”
Even so, the Jays almost won the third game. They came out strong to a 3-0 lead, later trailed 8-7, but went up 17-13 as sophomore setter Emma Woelber converted two consecutive soft push-hits into open spots on the floor.
Unfortunately, Minnesota West still had no antidote for St. Cloud Tech’s 5-11 freshman middle hitter Kamryn D’Heilly, whose rocket spikes continued to go for points.
Fighting back, West took a 23-21 lead, then 24-22 when after a long rally a Cyclone spike attempt went wide. St. Cloud moved out to a 26-25 lead moments later, then got the final point despite a great diving save by West’s Kiana Leighty.
Woelber was not bowed.
“It’s just the beginning of the season, so we’re kind of just learning to get used to each other,” she said of the Lady Jays, who suit up many freshmen this fall. “We are going to put up a fight this year. That third set just showed us we do want to win, we do want to put it together.”
Woelber finished with nine digs on the night, with 11 set assists and six kills. Alanna Goetzinger had nine kills. Leighty had 11 digs. Tyra Medicine Horn was 14-for-14 serving with one ace.
“They’re solid,” McNab said of her girls. “I just think they need to learn how to play together some more.”
The Jays will face another big test on Wednesday when they host second-ranked Rochester.