WORTHINGTON -- Exhibiting better passing, better setting, and as a result more consistent hitting, the Rochester Yellowjackets swept Minnesota West 3-0 in a college volleyball match Wednesday night at the Center for Health and Wellness on the Worthington campus.
Rochester, No. 5 in the national NJCAA Division 3 rankings, didn’t blow out the Lady Jays in any of the three sets. They scored it 25-17, 25-20 and 25-16. But the Jays didn’t help themselves much with their inconsistency.
“We’re trying,” said a frustrated head coach Brittney McNab, who clearly sees blocking and setting as something that must be improved to get the most out of her club.
“Somebody has to take charge, and nobody does. We have what it takes, so we have to break it down to the third- and fourth-grade level. I need a leader. I definitely need a leader on that court.”
The goal, McNab said, is to find a court presence that the other Lady Jays will trust. Too many of the players, she said, are trying to play their own game in what is a very team-oriented sport.
West started well in the first set as a tip point by Kennedy Buckenberg and an ace spike by Shelby Christensen moved the Lady Jays out to a 2-1 lead. A short serving run by Julia Russel upped West’s margin to 9-6. But in what was a common theme Wednesday night, the runs were short-lived and the well-oiled Rochester machine kept its parts moving.
Early in the second set, a hard crosscourt ace hit by Buckenberg seemed to energize West, and the home team led 6-3 before the Jackets broke back to forge a 12-7 advantage. Good serving by Buckenberg -- a freshman outside hitter from Garretson, S.D. -- allowed West to come within two at 22-20, but that’s where the rally ended.
With their backs against the wall, West was sluggish to begin the third set, trailing 11-1. Rochester rolled to victory.
Christensen and Buckenberg each finished with six kills for Minnesota West. Russel had 20 digs, and Taya Mason had nine set assists and 13 digs. Emily Dunlop, a 5-9 freshman middle hitter from Sherburn, had several impressive blocks.
Christensen, one of three sophomores on the West squad and a Murray County Central High School product, conceded the team needs to play together better as a group.
“I think tonight we were a little off with everything. It started with the passing,” she said. “They (the Yellowjackets) were digging up everything.”
It’s not that the Jays are absent leadership, she said. Mallory Thorson, a middle hitter from Luverne, is a player the team counts on to supply vocal support. Thorson, said Christensen, knows how to lift her teammates’ spirits, but she wasn’t able to attend Wednesday’s contest.
So it’s back to the drawing board for Minnesota West.
“Everything starts at practice. We’ve gotta take it seriously. It’s a short season, and we’ve gotta make the most of it now,” Christensen said.