Lady Jays spear Golden Rams, 3-1
WORTHINGTON -- Despite trailing by a game and seeing a Game 2 lead shrink, Minnesota West sophomore Kayla Wichern wasn't worried. "We weren't playing how we can play," Wichern said. "I knew that wasn't the team that I know and can play with." Aft...
WORTHINGTON -- Despite trailing by a game and seeing a Game 2 lead shrink, Minnesota West sophomore Kayla Wichern wasn't worried.
"We weren't playing how we can play," Wichern said. "I knew that wasn't the team that I know and can play with."
After closing out a Game 2 victory to even the match, the Minnesota West volleyball team played like it was capable and closed out a Minnesota College Athletic Conference Southern Division victory against Anoka-Ramsey in four games on Minnesota West's "Dig Pink" night Wednesday.
The Lady Jays (10-16, 3-4) lost the first game 25-16 before rebounding for three consecutive victories, 25-20, 25-22, 25-17.
"It was a much-needed win for us," MW head coach Janet Haren said. "We only had two conference wins, so we're still really fighting for that fourth spot. They got us the last time, and we knew it was going to be a good team and we knew it was going to be a tough game. It could have gone either way, and luckily it panned out in our direction."
The Golden Rams (13-13, 3-4) had defeated MW earlier this season in four games, as the Lady Jays could only win a close third game Sept. 5.
"Our hitting percentage was a lot better last time," A-R head coach Drew Rongere said. "We had a 17 percent hitting percentage when they came to play us. Tonight, it was probably about three percent looking at the stats, so that's a huge difference."
Jordan Noska had 16 kills to lead the Rams, while Becky Schoenecker had seven kills to lead an A-R team that had only six players.
"We have a couple of injured players that aren't supposed to be playing, but they are playing anyway," Rongere said. "It's been tough that way because they don't have a lot of rest time."
Behind the serving of Sarah Smith (10 digs), A-R had an early 8-1 lead in the first game.
However, a pair of attack errors cut the lead to 10-6 for the Rams.
That would be as close as the Lady Jays would get as A-R went on to a 25-16 victory in the first game.
"I was a little concerned the first game because I thought that our pass wasn't there," Haren said. "Our passes were 10 to 12 feet off the net, so then Dinah's (Xaphakdy) sets were eight feet off the net and then I don't think any hitter can put the ball away against a good defensive team that far off the net.
"I think once our passers started moving their feet a little bit better and pushing the ball up to our setter, I think things started to roll around for us a little better."
Things did start to go the way of the Lady Jays in the second game.
Jumping out to a 4-0 and later an 11-3 lead, Minnesota West looked to be in control.
A kill from Ally Rotert gave MW a 21-10 lead as the victory was all but wrapped up.
However, A-R wasn't going down without a fight.
Back-to-back kills from Noska cut the deficit to nine points, as the Rams made a strong comeback.
"Tonight definitely showed how volleyball can be an emotion swing," Wichern said. "There were leads between us and leads between them. It definitely showed how momentum is in a volleyball match."
With all the momentum on A-R's side, a kill from Schoenecker cut MW's lead to seven points, and an ace from Jakki Lindberg (four aces) left the score 23-18.
A much-needed kill from Meghan Cronberg gave MW point No. 24, but a 2-hit call gave A-R 20 points.
From there, it was A-R that hit a shot that was barely over the back line to give MW the Game 2 victory, 25-20.
"I knew they were capable of runs just from our experience up there and other teams playing them this year," Haren said. "So we really had to find a way to take something away and luckily, our defense started playing a little smarter, Dinah started making smarter sets and as a team we started meshing a little better and moving well together."
Both teams traded points early in the third game and with the score tied at 12-all, one team knew it had to make a run.
This time, it was MW that controlled the game, opening up a 19-13 lead.
A-R was within two points late in the game (24-22), but a lift call on the Rams gave MW the 25-22 victory, and a 2-1 advantage.
"I thought we came out strong and then we just lost energy on the court," Rongere said. "It seemed like we were playing tired, and we usually play strong and hard the whole time. We were losing energy and we lost our focus on what our goal was."
After a kill from Cronberg and an ace from Wichern, the Lady Jays had a 9-2 lead early in the third game.
"Minnesota West was serving pretty tough and we had a hard time passing the ball," Rongere said. "We couldn't get going on offense and we had to set the ball to people we don't normally set the ball to."
From there, the Rams continued to chip away at the lead, eventually tying the game a 12-all.
However, they were never able to take the lead as a kill from Cronberg started a 12-5 run for MW, and with a trio of kills from Cronberg, were able to close out the game, 25-17.
"I think it was definitely a team effort tonight," Wichern said. "The team pulled out a big win for us.
"We had to find the flow of the game and we had to get serious about it. I think it takes a little bit for us to do that. I think we're getting more serious right away."
MW will travel to Riverland Saturday before hosting Fergus Falls Wednesday.