PREP VOLLEYBALL SSC's diversified attack yields third conference win

OKABENA -- Displaying increased mental toughness and an ever-hustling, diversified attack, Southwest Star Concept remained undefeated in Red Rock Conference high school volleyball by sweeping Fulda on its home court Tuesday evening.

Quasar Jennifer Schmidt (10) tips the ball past Raider defenders Kassie Wilkening (13) and Courtney Hulstein (5) during Tuesday night volleyball action in Okabena.

OKABENA -- Displaying increased mental toughness and an ever-hustling, diversified attack, Southwest Star Concept remained undefeated in Red Rock Conference high school volleyball by sweeping Fulda on its home court Tuesday evening.

The first set was closely-contested until the host Quasars (4-5, 3-0) capped the contest with an 8-0 run to win the opener, 25-18.

SSC then held off a strong Fulda rally in Game 2 and posted a 25-20 victory, before winning the third set rather easily, 25-15.

"We seemed a bit sluggish at times," SSC head coach Cindy Owen said after tabulating the match statistics. "But, we didn't give up on balls and we had some nice saves."

A shining example of that for the Quasars -- which means fast-moving stars -- was during the third set when a hard Fulda serve was seemingly shanked out of bounds on the reception, but a pair of saving hits by SSC kept the ball in play and allowed the home team to eventually score the point.


Another example came midway through the second set when sophomore middle hitter Alyssa Hendrickson, who had a match-high eight ace blocks, made a spectacular save and -- with her back to the net -- drove the ball over, increasing the Quasars' lead to 18-12.

"SSC was very scrappy and always hustling," praised Fulda head coach Jen Tiesler about the Quasars. "It looked like they wanted to win more than we did."

A total of six Quasars delivered spike kills during the match, including a thundering team-high 10 by impressive eighth-grader Courtney Place, who also served for six points and was on the receiving end of 15 of Fulda's serves.

Place, who stands at even six foot, cracked a kill to the floor early in the first set and had a pair of ace spikes at the end of Game 1, including the clincher.

"Courtney really played well," praised Owen. "She is just a good all-around player who keeps her cool when the pressure is on."

Fulda put plenty of pressure on the Quasars through most of Game 1, building leads of 7-5, 11-9 and 18-17 before SSC rallied with its 8-0 run to swing the momentum.

"The Raiders were hitting the ball hard," Owen said. "They found our holes."

Fulda seniors Brittany Hulstein (5-10) and Jess Hermeling (5-5) were especially effective in that first set, as each delivered timely kills to help spark the Raiders.


All four of Hermeling's kills were in Game 1, while Hulstein tagged a bunch in Fulda's Game 2 rally and finished the night with a match-high 11 kills.

"Brittany was on fire tonight," praised Tiesler of her middle hitter. "She was digging well, hitting hard and just really clicking."

Raiders rally with 7-1 run in Game 2

SSC broke from an 8-8 tie in the second set with a 9-4 run -- highlighted by a right-side kill by senior Yoana Fonseca, a sizzling left-side kill by junior Jennifer Schmidt and a right-side kill by senior Devyn Stenzel -- to open up a 17-12 advantage.

Well-executed back sets by junior Mandy Henkels (to Fonseca) and senior Kelli Schmitz (to Stenzel) showed SSC's versatility, while Schmitz's high front set to an approaching Schmidt displayed the Quasars' power.

Then with a five-point lead, SSC showed its spunk when Hendrickson's hustling volley landed on the other side, giving the Quasars a six-point lead.

Fulda, however, rallied with an impressive 7-1 run of its own, closing the score to 20-19.

Raider senior Kassie Wilkening (five kills, 12-of-14 serving, nine points) powered a spike through a Quasar block attempt and Hulstein did the same to trigger the surge by the visitors.


An ace block by Hulstein made the score 20-17 and forced Owen to call a timeout.

But an ace tip by Hulstein and a dandy second-effort play at the net by Hermeling brought the Raiders to within one, 20-19.

A missed Fulda serve, however, gave the Quasars a needed point and SSC closed out the set with an ace serve (knuckler) by Schmitz, a well-placed tip by Place and a smash by Stenzel (set Schmitz) through a Raider block attempt.

SSC dominates Game 3

A left-side kill by Hulstein scored the first point of Game 3, but the Quasars scored nine of the next 12 and took command early, leading 9-4.

An ace serve by senior Katey Granstra (just inside the back line), a kill by Schmidt and a strong ace (middle) block by Hendrickson highlighted that SSC run.

An ace serve by Henkels -- after a Fulda timeout -- made the score 10-4, and after a kill by Wilkening and a couple of Quasar errors closed the score to 11-7, SSC rattled off six straight points to build momentum for the finish.

Hendrickson started the surge with another ace block and then junior Jordin Elness delivered a hard serve -- which was dug up by the Raiders, but was returned high above the net. Place put the hammer to the ball, drilling it straight to the floor and SSC's lead was 14-7.


"Alyssa had a nice game at the net for us with her blocking," praised Owen. "Jordin did a super job serving and, of course, if Courtney gets set up like that, she's going to put it down."

Elness followed with an ace serve, Place recorded another kill and an error by the Raiders gave the Quasars a 17-7 advantage.

An error by the Quasars was followed by an ace serve by Wilkening, but a nice back set by Fonseca to the left-handed hitting Hendrickson -- for a right-side kill through the block -- made the score 18-9.

A tip through a block by Place, a well-placed open court kill by Granstra and a hammering left-side kill by Stenzel offset a pair of left-side kills by Hulstein and SSC's lead was 21-12.

Fulda junior setter Courtney Hulstein (41-of-48, 16 set assists) delivered a beautiful cross-court set to her older sister on Fulda's 11th point.

Another left-side kill by Brittany closed the gap to 21-13, but Schmitz (team-high 14 set assists) fed Schmidt again and then Granstra floated across back-to-back ace serves, putting the Quasars at game and match point.

A coffin corner ace spike by Fulda's Mara Schroer kept the match going and then the Raiders won a rally to make the score 24-15.

But a missed Fulda serve ended the game and completed the sweep for the Quasars.


SSC junior libero Maddie Rasche had a fine match, leading the Quasar defense with 19 digs and 27 serve receptions. Rasche and Granstra each served for nine points, while Henkels scored seven points and put up seven set assists.

Schmidt and Granstra both had seven kills for the Quasars, while Schmidt also had 16 digs and 18 serve receptions. Fonseca had four set assists and Stenzel delivered three kills to help SSC's all-around effort.

Hermeling had five digs for the Raiders (1-3, 1-2), while Courtney Hulstein and Sarah Strenge each had four.

Fulda hosts Round Lake-Brewster Thursday, while SSC travels to Edgerton to tangle with Southwest Christian in a key conference clash the same night.

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Raider Jess Hermeling (2) tips the ball around Quasar defenders Yoana Fonseca (5) and Alyssa Hendrickson (8) during Tuesday night's game in Okabena.

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