PREP VOLLEYBALL: Huskies hound Eagles for SWC win

JACKSON -- Like a well-oiled machine with all the parts working, Jackson County Central's high school volleyball team was clicking on all cylinders Thursday night and the Huskies won a key Southwest Conference match over the rival Windom Eagles.

Windom's Ysker
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Eagle Courtney Ysker (2) hits into a trio of Jackson County Central defenders (from left) Sarah Darling (19) Kaylee Benson (6) and Courtney Donnelli during Thursday night volleyball action in Jackson.

JACKSON -- Like a well-oiled machine with all the parts working, Jackson County Central's high school volleyball team was clicking on all cylinders Thursday night and the Huskies won a key Southwest Conference match over the rival Windom Eagles.

Game scores were 25-11, 25-21 and 25-17.

"We came out with a lot of intensity and things worked out for us right away," JCC head coach Teresa VanEpps said. "We may have lost a bit of that intensity in the second set, but overall this was a very good match for us."

The Huskies (12-0) are the state's No. 1 ranked team in Class AA and have won a pair of tournaments this season (at Shakopee and at JCC), having defeated several Class AAA teams.

In winning its own tournament last Saturday, JCC defeated the Minneota Vikings -- the state's No. 1 rated Class A team.


Thursday night, the Huskies displayed the firepower, teamwork and fundamental skills which have allowed them to launch such a successful start to their season -- despite having graduated six quality seniors from last year's sensational 26-2 season.

"We did graduate six top contributors from last year," said VanEpps. "But, we gained six awesome players from last season's B-squad -- which only lost one match all year -- and we are playing good volleyball."

Windom which entered the match with an 11-3 record and a No. 7 ranking in Class A, gave JCC a good battle in the middle set, but the Huskies were absolutely dominant in the opener and were pretty much in command most of the third set.

"Hats of to JCC," summed up veteran Windom head coach Ron Wendorff after the match. "That's an outstanding team with so many strong hitters and exceptional blockers."

Burmeister's serving sparks JCC to early lead

With the stands packed with partisan fans on each side of gym, JCC junior Whitney Burmeister sparked the Huskies to an early 7-0 lead with some pinpoint serving -- including a trio of aces -- which forced Wendorff to call an early timeout with the score at 5-0.

"Boy, did we serve well," exclaimed VanEpps in an understatement. "Whitney got us off a great start with several well-placed shots to the corner behind (Windom's) defense."

Windom scored its first point on a kill by sophomore outside hitter Hali Tasler and later notched another point on a quick hit by senior setter Kaitlin Markl, but the Huskies opened up a 13-5 lead after a sizzling right-side kill by junior middle hitter Kaylee Benson.


"We move Kaylee around a lot in the front row," explained VanEpps about Benson's versality at the net. "She's a great back row player, too, but we tend to rest her because we need her legs fresh for the front row."

JCC's lead increased to 17-7 after junior outside hitter Sarah Darling cracked a spike through a Windom block attempt and later took a 19-9 advantage after its lone senior -- outside hitter Courtney Donnelli powered a kill to the floor.

In between the points by Darling and Donnelli, Windom sophomore middle hitter Holly Larson made a couple of stellar plays at the net, giving the Eagles back-to-back points.

Benson and Burmeister -- who each came with six ace blocks for the match -- teamed together on a stuff to lift the Huskies to a 22-10 lead and after an Eagle error, a kill by Burmeister and a rare error on JCC, Benson took a back set from junior setter Lexi Schneekloth (team-high 15 assists) and delivered the clincher to Game 1.

Eagles take early lead in Game 2, compete well

With senior defensive specialist Sarah Lamaack at the serving line and a nice dig by senior libero Amber Sebring, Windom took its first lead of the match when junior setter Abby Hayenga smacked a kill just inside the line, the Eagles opened Game 2 with a 1-0 lead.

An ace serve by Tasler increased the lead to 3-1 and Windom's biggest lead came at 5-2 when senior all-state Courtney Ysker drilled one of her team-high seven kills to the floor.

A few plays, later, however JCC sophomore libero Sydnee Donnelli came up with one of her match-high 11 digs, picking up a hard Ysker spike and the Huskies earned the point, closing the score to 5-4.


JCC sophomore setter Michelle VanEpps made a perfect set to Courtney Donelli for a crushing left-side kill and the score was tied.

A second-effort play at the net by Benson and an ace serve by Lexi Schneekloth lifted the Huskies to a 7-5 lead.

Benson blocked Ysker to increase JCC's lead to 9-5, capping a 7-0 run for the Huskies.

"We were down early in Game 2, but we came back with a nice surge and took the lead," VanEpps said. "They (the Eagles) came back strong, however, and were were within three points later in the set."

A kill by junior outside hitter Amber Eigenberg and a middle block by Hayenga helped Windom keep the gap at four, 12-8.

A tip kill by Larson and a sneaky set -- over the net -- for a kill by Hayenga brought the Eagles to within two at 13-11.

"We seemed to relax and played better in the second game," Wendorff said. "We were able to play our brand of volleyball and competed like we wanted to."

JCC extended its lead to 16-12 when sophomore middle hitter Jasmine Erickson (four ace blocks) slapped a spike to the floor, but Windom countered with a 5-4 run and trailed just 20-17 after a pair of mistakes by the Huskies.


A hammering left-side kill by Hayenga (12 set assists, six kills, four digs, five-of-five serving) was an offensive highlight for the Eagles during that stretch.

"Abby had a nice all-around night for us," praised Wendorff. "So, did Holly Larson at the net. The play of those two girls was a bright spot for us."

But with momentum on its side, the Eagles served its next opportunity into the net and JCC went back up by four.

"That's kind of how it for us,"summed up Wendorff. "When we did get some momentum going, we would shoot ourselves in the foot."

The two teams played evenly the rest of the set, but the Huskies prevailed with a four-point victory, taking a 2-0 lead in the match.

JCC takes command in Game 3 with 17-6 lead

Windom continued playing right with JCC early in Game 3.

But with the score tied at 4-4, the Huskies went on an impressive 13-2 run, taking command with a 17-6 lead.


A high set by Lexi Schneekloth to Burmeister (nine kills) was a highlight of that surge, as was an ace block by Darling.

"We blocked very well," summed up VanEppes. "We held Ysker to just seven kills in the match. She had 38 last week in a five-set match against Marshall."

Larson (five kills, four blocks) put a tip through a JCC block for an Eagle point and Ysker drove a spike through another block attempt to trigger a final Windom rally.

A dandy back set from Van Epps (13 assists) to Darling gave JCC a 19-9 advantage.

Windom countered with a middle kill by Ysker and an ace serve from Markl, making the score 19-11.

A great save by Tasler on a hard spike by Darling continued the Eagle rally, but the Huskies regained control with a scorching spike down by line by Darling and a well-executed "wrap-around" spike by Benson (match-high 11 kills) to go up, 23-15.

The Huskies completed the sweep with junior defensive specialist Caitlin Muir at the serving line and an ace block by Burmeister -- who started and ended the match with big plays.

JCC served 94 percent (68-of-72) for the match, while Windom missed 10 serves in 45 attempts, for a percentage just under 78.


Courtney Donnelli (18-of-19, two aces), Lexi Schneekloth (15-of-15), Burmeister (14-of-16, five aces) and Michelle VanEpps (7-of-8, two aces) were the leading servers for the Huskies.

Courtny Donnelli and Burmeister had eight and seven digs, respectively, for the Huskies (12-0, 2-0), who travel to Fairmont Monday.

Markl had five digs for the Eagles (11-4, 2-1) who have a week to prepare for their trip to Minneota Thursday.

JCC's Burmeister
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Jackson County Central's Whitney Burmeister (3) spikes the ball around Windom defenders Abby Hayenga (4) and Shelby Mattson (6) during Thursday night's volleyball match in Jackson. The Huskies swept Windom.

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