Prep volleyball: Southwest Minnesota Christian produces rare win over Heron Lake-Okabena
OKABENA -- Southwest Christian did something Thursday night that no team has done in nearly three years. The Eagles defeated Heron Lake-Okabena in a Red Rock Conference volleyball match. "It's really big," SWC outside hitter Chantel Groen said. "...
OKABENA - Southwest Christian did something Thursday night that no team has done in nearly three years.
The Eagles defeated Heron Lake-Okabena in a Red Rock Conference volleyball match.
“It’s really big,” SWC outside hitter Chantel Groen said. “I’ve only been on varsity one year, but we haven’t beat them in the past. It was really exciting to beat them.”
Game scores were 16-25, 25-21, 25-19 and 25-15.
“I think we played pretty well,” SWC libero Hope Veldkamp said. “It was rough at first, but we kept fixing our mistakes and got better. We had lost to them the past couple of years, so we really wanted to beat them and also for conference, we wanted to keep our perfect record for conference.”
Both teams entered Thursday’s match with a perfect 4-0 conference record.
After finishing the last two years undefeated in the RRC, the last loss for HL-O in the conference came at the hands of Westbrook-Walnut Grove on Oct. 4, 2012.
“This was a good test for our team halfway through the year,” SWC head coach Brian Busker said. “This was a game they circled and wanted to make sure they showed up for. We’re still getting better. There are still things we need to improve, that’s what’s nice about it. We know we’re not where we can be yet.”
The two teams have been staples on top of the conference with the teams combining to win eight of the last nine conference titles.
“We’ve been battling every year,” Busker said. “They’ve had good teams. And we’re still playing a lot of these girls that we’ve been playing the last two years. Especially when we’ve come here in the past, we haven’t played well, so I’m pretty proud of the fact that the girls showed some grit tonight in their play.”
The Eagles had a balanced attack, led by Ann Pater and Groen with eight kills apiece. Groen also added two ace blocks.
“This is one of my better games,” Groen said.
Kassydi Vreeman and Cassie Groen each had five kills for the Eagles.
“They had a solid hitting line,” HL-O head coach Trista Hacker said. “It was tough for us to get up a good block. We only had a few blocks on them. We were stopping some things from getting over the net, but they were always digging it up. Their defense was really on tonight.”
Veldkamp led the defensive effort with 17 digs, while Pater added 16. Miley Mohlenkamp had three ace serves and led SWC with 12 set assists, while Leah Buys had 10 set assists.
The first game was back and forth throughout, but with the score tied at 15, HL-O made its move.
“I think we were just kind of psyched out because of them,” Chantel Groen said. “I think after a while, we started getting into the game and got more excited.”
The Wildcats went on a 10-1 run to win Game 1.
“We just weren’t in the right spots and our blocking was a little off and shaky,” Veldkamp said. “We weren’t coming off super strong and aggressive. Once we did that, we were good.”
The second game was close throughout, with neither team able to create any separation. But at the end, the Eagles broke away from a 19-19 tie for the 25-21 victory.
“We came out strong and won the first game,” Hacker said. “The girls came out with confidence so they weren’t making many errors. They knew what they could do and knew what they needed to get it done. I think they sat back a little bit and they eased back and that’s when the Eagles came back. And they came back strong. They weren’t ready to be done.”
The Eagles jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third game, and never trailed.
“We just needed to keep the energy up and tire them out,” Chantel Groen said. “We had to keep hitting at them so they get weaker and we get stronger.”
HL-O was within two late, but SWC took the third game, 25-19.
“We just slowly built all night long,” Busker said. “We started out slow, on our block especially. It took a while for us to get involved with the block. Once that started, that allowed us to get Game 2 and Game 3. In Game 4, I think they were getting a little tired. We showed the stamina to win those long rallies, which in Game 1, we didn’t win. I think that was a little bit of a difference. Both sides played really tough, really hard. They swung hard at us all night long.”
The Wildcats led early in Game 4, but a quick 5-0 run turned the game back in SWC’s favor. The Eagles maintained that lead en route to a match-sealing win.
Andrea Hinkeldey led HL-O with 19 kills and 23 digs, while Sarah Madsen had 12 kills. Hailey Schumacher was a perfect 13-for-13 serving with three aces to go with 20 set assists. Brooke Freking added 23 set assists, while Ashley Hendrickson was 17-for-18 serving with one ace.
The Eagles (8-4, 5-0) are at Unity Christian for a tournament this weekend.
“This gives us a lot of momentum,” Veldkamp said. “We just have to keep going and keep improving as we go.”
HL-O (11-5, 4-1) hosts Mountain Lake Area on Tuesday.
“I don’t want to say it’s a good loss, but it keeps them in check and it makes them work harder in practice,” Hacker said. “It’s tough to be on top, you have a big target on your back and that’s the way we play every conference match, with a big target on our back because everybody wants to beat us. It’s hard to stay on top, for sure. We’ll take away what we can from this game. There is a lot of stuff this game showed us with things we need to work on to bring ourselves up to the next level and make ourselves better.”