WHS VOLLEYBALL: Trojans sweep Eagles

WORTHINGTON -- It took contributions from all of the Trojans -- highlighted by an exciting late-game rally in the middle set -- Thursday evening as Worthington High School won its home-opener in high school volleyball with a sweep over New Ulm.

Robinson, Gerber
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Trojans Angela Robinson (13) and Mackenzie Gerber (7) go up for a block against New Ulm's Jill Gareis (6) during Thursday night's match in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- It took contributions from all of the Trojans -- highlighted by an exciting late-game rally in the middle set -- Thursday evening as Worthington High School won its home-opener in high school volleyball with a sweep over New Ulm.

Game scores were 25-20, 26-24 and 25-16.

Not only did the well-balanced Trojans sweep their second non-conference match of the new season -- they also broke in their brand new home red uniforms in style.

"This was fun," exclaimed a pleased WHS head coach Melissa Schutz after the match. "All the girls played their positions well."

Worthington scored the first five points of the match and then worked to leads of 7-2 and 11-5 before New Ulm rallied with a 6-2 run.


But the Trojans never trailed in that first game and eventually pulled away from a 22-19 advantage to the five-point, 25-20, victory.

Trojans rally in Game 2, finish with Andersen's kill, Meier's ace serve

Game 2, however, was a different story as the Eagles -- sparked by some timely spikes from junior middle-hitter Amber Gasner and senior outside-hitter Rachel Holstein -- soared to a 13-8 lead and seemed to be controlling the action at the net.

But after a timeout by Schutz, the Trojans gradually chipped into the Eagles' lead.

"We just needed to stay focused and keep being aggressive," exclaimed Schutz about the need for the timeout. "We talk about playing at the same level of intensity throughout the match and we may have had a bit of a lag there when New Ulm started clicking with some of its spikes."

After an exchange of points, WHS junior middle-hitter Martha Alwal (12 kills, three blocks, three digs) had a spike attempt blocked by the Eagles -- but the ball sailed out of bounds and the Trojans were awarded the point.

A bit later, junior outside-hitter Melissa Juber (five digs, four kills, 15-of-17 serving) utilized some effective top spin to deliver one of her four ace serves on the night and Worthington had closed the gap to 14-12.

A spike kill by junior middle-hitter Mackenzie Gerber (six kills, two blocks) kept the margin at two points (16-14), as the Trojans continued to play even with the Eagles.


"Mackenzie had a nice night at the net," praised Schutz. "She played smart and found open areas with some spikes and with some tips."

New Ulm, however, continued to lead by either two or three points.

A spectacular backwards, one-arm save by senior setter Meagan Meier (nine set assists, four digs) landed on the New Ulm side untouched and the Trojans were once again within two, trailing 19-17.

"That was quite a play," declared Schutz. "That gave us a good spark and we seemed to be getting the momentum."

But a missed serve by the Trojans and an ace right-side kill by New Ulm senior Marissa Klimmek turned the tide back to the visitors, who claimed a 21-17 advantage and forced Schutz to call another timeout.

"Same as before," the coach explained. "We needed to become more aggressive and stay on our toes."

The advice worked.

New Ulm missed its next serve and then junior setter Taylor Heidebrink (12 set assists, three blocks, seven digs, 11-of-12 serving with an ace) put the ball right where Alwal wanted it -- and boom the Trojans were back within two again at 21-19.


Back-to-back ace serves by the athletic Juber tied the game at 21-all and then Alwal and junior right-side hitter Angela Robinson teamed to block a spike attempt by Holstein and Worthington took a 22-21 edge.

Robinson then pounded down a free ball at the net and the Trojans had a 6-0 run and a 23-21 lead.

After Worthington did a nice job of keeping the ball in play on a long rally, Holstein knocked down a spike for the Eagles and a missed play at the net by the Trojans resulted in a 23-23 deadlock.

Juber delivered a drive off a pass from senior libero Samantha Thuringer (team-high nine digs, 10-of-11 serving), giving WHS a one-point lead.

The Eagles dug up a hard spike by Trojan junior outside-hitter Kristen Andersen -- which looked like it may clinch a WHS win -- and retailiated with another kill by Holstein.

With the score tied at 24-all, the set was going to extra points.

Andersen (four kills, seven digs) connected on a cross-court hit that landed just inside the line and then Meier's jump serve landed for an ace, giving the Trojans an exciting two-point win, 26-24, capping an 18-11 run after Schutz's first timeout.

"We played well defensively," emphasized Schutz. "The girls made the right reads on their attacks and then we moved the ball around on offense."


Juber triggers fast WHS start in Game 3

Riding the momentum of the come-from-behind win in Game 2, the Trojans bolted to a quick 6-1 lead in Game 3 as Juber had an ace block, an ace tip and an ace serve before Alwal scored on an ace block.

Gerber later capped a 5-2 WHS run with a well-placed tip and Alwal hammered a spike to the floor, as the Trojans pulled away to leads of 11-4 and 13-6.

An ace serve by Meier stretched the WHS advantage to seven points (18-11) and Andersen's ace from behind the line made it nine (21-12) as the Trojans stayed in control.

After a brief New Ulm rally, an ace serve by Heidebrink -- who played a fine all-around match for the Trojans -- made the score 24-16.

Then the Eagles hit the ball out of bounds and Worthington completed the sweep.

"Worthington controlled the net well," New Ulm head coach Chris Otto said after his team's first match of the season. "They utilized multiple-hitters and did a lot of things well."

The Trojans (2-0) have a week to prepare for their Southwest Conference opener at Redwood Valley Thursday.


Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Trojan Martha Alwal (9) goes for a kill over New Ulm defenders Erin Gronholz (11) and Marissa Klimmek (17) during Thursday night volleyball action in Worthington.

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