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Prep volleyball: JCC tops WHS in four hard-fought games

WORTHINGTON -- No more than four points separated the Jackson County Central Huskies and the Worthington Trojans in four games of Big South Conference volleyball Tuesday night at the WHS gym.

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Tim Middagh/Daily Globe Jackson County Central volleyball player Lacey Wacker (10) sets up teammate Tiara Menke (5) in Tuesday's match against Worthington as Alexa Palmer (2) looks on.

WORTHINGTON -- No more than four points separated the Jackson County Central Huskies and the Worthington Trojans in four games of Big South Conference volleyball Tuesday night at the WHS gym.

It was an eye-opener for both teams.

JCC won the match 3-1, losing the first game 23-25 but prevailing in the last three, 25-21, 25-21 and 25-22.

“I knew that they would be scrappy, but boy, did they run a quicker offense than I thought they would. And we weren’t prepared defensively,” said JCC head coach Deidre Wierson.

“We were trying to serve aggressively, and we missed a few more serves than I would like,” said WHS mentor Jessica Hogan. “It’s a fine line when you’re trying to serve tough, ‘cuz you can’t serve easy.”

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Tuesday’s match was a battle of undefeated teams. Jackson County Central, the traditional volleyball powerhouse, advanced to 3-0 with the hard-fought win. The Trojans dropped to 3-1 but felt good about their effort.

“This is a confident group. A hungry group,” said Hogan. “They’re disappointed with tonight because they thought they could win the match.”

Worthington hung tough, in part, by employing a fast-strike offense that kept JCC and its state Class AA honorable mention hitter Abby Benson from dominating up front. Wierson said the Huskies started too slow, but the Trojans were able to take Husky setters out of the match. They set up their own points quickly and placed the ball well.

“That’s a credit to our back row, because you can’t run an offense if you can’t pass,” Hogan said.

Hogan credited her own setter, 5-10 junior Anneke Weg, with spreading the ball out and refusing to be predictable. Weg finished with 19 set assists to go along with her six digs.

The first game of the evening, like the three that followed, was tight all the way. JCC led 8-4 early but Worthington moved out to a 10-8 lead largely helped by a five-point serving run by Weg. Worthington maintained a slim lead for most of the rest of the way. Mulder recorded a block for the Trojans’ 25th point.

JCC started quickly out of the gate in game two, leading 3-0. Worthington finally drew even at 12-12, then took an 18-15 lead on an Emma Thuringer spike. But the Huskies rallied back, helped along by Benson, who was more effective on the service line than she was at the net.

Worthington led midway in the third game, 15-10. But Benson began to heat up more at the net -- her ace hit from the middle gave her team a 21-18 lead. Worthington needed a spark but put two consecutive serves into the net. A few points later, Mulder went long with a spike for JCC’s 25th point.

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Jackson County Central led most of the way in the decisive fourth game, but never by very much. Worthington fought hard to stay close, and a Nyamer Diew ace hit let her team come within a point at 22-21. Alexa Palmer drilled an ace to give JCC a 23-22 lead, then came up with another ace for 24-22. A Mulder spike went wide for JCC’s 25th point.

Senior middle hitter Abbi Mulder, who led Worthington with eight kills, said the tight match with powerful JCC was something her team could build upon.

“We are very encouraged. I thought our energy was there at times, and then it kind of went down. All we gotta do is keep it high,” she said.

Final totals showed Benson with 13 kills. She also put 17 of 18 serves in play for two aces while getting 10 digs. Lacey Wacker had 11 kills and Kayla O’Connor eight.

Wacker was 17-for-20 serving and Tiara Menke was 11-for-11 with an ace.

For Worthington, Weg complemented Mulder with six kills of her own, and Emily Shaffer had five. Thuringer had seven digs and four blocks. Paige Heidebrink was 18-for-20 serving with 10 points and one ace.

Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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