New Ulm defeats St. James in SCC battle

NEW ULM – A spontaneous injury to one of its leading hitters proved to be enough of a motivating factor for New Ulm.

New Ulm was given a short time to change its rotation after losing Katie Forst, who broke her hand during the school day. That short preparation time only cost New Ulm in the first two sets as it came back from a 2-0 hole to beat St. James in five (19-25, 15-25, 25-21, 25-21, 15-5) in a South Central Conference match on Thursday night.

“They just really wanted it,” said NUHS coach Lauren Hoffmann. “They wanted it, they started working together, they started getting comfortable with the rotation.”

The Eagles (6-5, 4-1 SCC) were also without junior setter Tori Botten, who Hoffmann said was out of town.

Senior outside hitter Chase Schewe said the turning point for the team was when Forst’s name came up in the huddle after losing the second set.

“As bad as [Forst] wanted to be out there, that’s how bad we needed to win that match,” Schewe said. “So we went out there and played for Katie and we played for our setter Tori Botten.”

The Saints (6-7, 2-3) took advantage of the Eagles’ trouble adjusting to their rotation, especially when it came to serving.

In the first two sets, Allison Brandts tallied a team-high five service aces while Liz Reckow had four. Three of Reckow’s four aces scratched the net but made it over just enough to fall to the floor on the Eagles’ side of the court.

However, Hoffmann said her team got more comfortable with the new rotation after the second set, changing momentum in its favor.

Where exactly it changed, St. James coach Steve Chapin said he isn’t sure.

Chapin was able to pinpoint a few details.

“The service line was an issue – they went on some service runs, specifically in game No. 4,” Chapin said.

With the Saints leading 17-11 in the fourth set, Alley Grejtak led a 7-0 run from the service line that included a kill and three service aces from her. That run gave New Ulm an 18-17 lead en route to a 25-21 victory to force a fifth set.

“Their defensive back-row play really played better in games No. 4 and 5,” Chapin said. “I thought their libero [junior Briana Sieve] looked really good in the last two games. It just came together a lot better for them.”

Grejtak bested Brandts’ mark in service aces with a match-high of six. Sieve also tied sophomore Brittany Denn with 16 digs for the Eagles.

Ellie Schneider stepped up offensively for the Eagles in the fourth and fifth sets, within which she notched seven of her 12 kills.

“She definitely realized that, ‘Hey, we need a leader out here, I’ve got to put the ball away, we’ve got to get the ball to the floor,’ so that’s what she did,” Schewe said. “She stepped up and she did that really well.”

Lizzie Rummel finished with seven kills for the Eagles, while Schewe and Grejtak finished with six each. Schewe also led the team in digs with 21.

“I’m very proud of the girls,” Hoffmann said. “They came back, they knew they wanted it. Like I said, we were thrown into a situation at literally the last minute that we had to adjust [to].”

Overall, Chapin could not be upset with his team’s effort even after dropping the last three sets.

“We played well for two games and we didn’t play terribly in game 4 or game 3 either – it was even the whole way up,” Chapin said. “But they played better after 20 [points].”

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