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Lady Jays still struggling to find consistency

They’re athletic enough, they’re talented enough. That much seems clear about the Minnesota West Lady Jays volleyball team in the fall of 2021. They win, too, but maybe not enough.

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Minnesota West Ladyjays Mallory Thorson (10) and Dannyn Peterson (5) leap up to block a shot from Briar Cliff JV front line Erica Juntunen (35), Petyon Preston (20) and Jaice Johnsen during a Wednesday night game in Worthington. Tim Middagh/The Globe

WORTHINGTON -- They’re athletic enough, they’re talented enough. That much seems clear about the Minnesota West Lady Jays volleyball team in the fall of 2021. They win, too, but maybe not enough.

West was defeated Wednesday night in Worthington by the Briar Cliff junior varsity Chargers, falling to 7-11 on the season. The teams looked evenly matched in the first set, won by Briar Cliff 28-26. But the next two sets weren’t as evenly-played. Briar Cliff won them both, 25-19 and 25-13 for a three-game sweep.

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Shelby Christensen (11) of Minnesota West delivers a hit as teammate Caralis Ramos (18) moves in Wednesday night in Worthington. Tim Middagh/The Globe

The Lady Jays, who were scheduled to go back on the road on Friday with matches against Western Tech and Rochester Community College, are still trying to find consistency.

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“We have the talent. We just haven’t put it together yet,” said middle hitter Mallory Thorson, who was a successful volleyball and basketball player at Luverne during her high school days. Thorson’s biggest takeaway from Wednesday’s match was a shiner delivered to her right eye on the last point of the match -- a blow accidentally delivered by a teammate while the two of them went up for a block.

Thorson admitted that the season is getting late. There are still a few matches yet to play, but inconsistency remains.

It’s a tendency duly noted by Minnesota West head coach Brittney McNab, who noted that one team was consistent on Wednesday, and it wasn’t hers.

“They were consistent. They put the ball where we should have been playing,” McNab said after the match. “We just need to get back to basics. Cover the floor. But we also don’t have that ‘grrrr.’ We watch it go.”

The first set was there for either team to take. Late in the set, West’s Dannyn Peterson broke BC’s serve on an ace hit to break a 20-20 deadlock, then teammate Emma Keith served two points for a 23-20 Lady Jays lead. Thorson scored on a pair of soft ace hits afterward. But after the score was tied 26-26, the Chargers tallied the final two points.

Briar Cliff ramped up its hitting power in the second set, and a short serving run by freshman Grace Brinkman -- a Jackson County Central graduate -- helped the visitors to a 14-9 advantage. West’s Emily Dunlop scored on some hard-hit spikes after that, but the Chargers held on to win.

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In set three, Briar Cliff continued to hit with power, and Minnesota West struggled to dig well enough to get into its offense. When the Jays hitters did receive good sets, they seemed a bit tentative, attempting to tip balls over the net as much as they tried to hit with authority.

McNab said there were not enough West hitters coming out swinging. Dunlop did, but inconsistency in the passing department limited her opportunities.

“The first game is what we were expecting. We’re physically fit to play with anybody. Mentally, we’re not where we need to be,” said the coach.

Thorson agreed. “We’re always giving teams too many free balls,” she said.

Dunlop and Kennedy Buckneberg both finished with eight kills. Shelby Christensen had nine digs. Keith had 16 set assists and Taya Mason had seven. Thorson was 8-for-8 serving with a pair of aces.

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALL
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