St. Mary’s sweeps Chargers

SLEEPY EYE – Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s concluded its second-straight sweep by beating Minnesota Valley Lutheran 25-16, 25-23, 25-23 in a designated nonconference volleyball match on Tuesday night.

The victory capped off the “neon night” for the Knights (3-0). But for senior Becca Schmitz, oddly enough, the match didn’t really feel like a sweep.

“It was back-and-forth, back-and-forth,” Schmitz said. “A few times we had to come back, but we just had to play aggressively.”

After taking the first set 25-16 during which St. Mary’s led the entire time, MVL (1-1) jetted out to a 12-6 lead in the second set.

The Chargers replicated that distance at 19-13 following Bekka Olsen’s second kill of the night, but coach Jen Walter lit a fire under her team in preaching the merits of aggression.

“The girls kept swinging, nobody started to play it safe, we didn’t start to tip and we really started to go after the ball,” Walter said. “Some of those scrappy plays … we won a few of those points. The momentum really shifted with that too.”

But the Chargers did not lie down after falling 25-23 in set No. 2. They got some key points at the net from Johanna Kettner and Anna Munsen, both of whom combined for eight total blocks on the night.

“They are powerful; I definitely put a lot of trust in them that they’re going to put the ball away,” Olsen said.

Olsen stepped up in the third set for the Chargers, tallying four of her team-high six kills. Kettner twice broke a tie with a solo block and Munsen tallied two of her three blocks for key points in the third set.

“Even though we were down at some points, we wanted to keep going,” Olsen said. “It came down to two points at the end in both of the last two games. We really wanted it.”

What worked for St. Mary’s, however, was its switch from a 5-1 to a 6-2 offensive formation, which spread out its offensive attack with two setters – junior Taylor Pelzel and freshman Jody Hansen – to get things going.

With two setters in the mix, the Knights were able to spread out their attack instead of having to rely heavily upon Schmitz’s swings as they had to last year.

“It takes some getting used to with two setters, they both have different styles of setting,” Schmitz said. “They’re both very good, they know a lot about volleyball. It takes some getting used to, but in the long run it will really help us.”

Schmitz notched a match-high 13 kills while Hansen and Pelzel went for 18 and 14 in set assists. Tori Anderson and Anna Lux each had six kills apiece, while Brianna Bertrand had two.

For MVL, Sarah Hinderman had five kills and two aces, Sarah Stelljes had four kills and Kettner had three kills.

MVL will prepare for its conference opener on Thursday, when it will travel to Winthrop to face Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop.

St. Mary’s will begin its conference slate with rival New Ulm Cathedral on Thursday at home.

“Playing more consistently will be a key for us and maintaining that momentum and that intensity throughout the whole game,” Walter said. “Cathedral’s always a very smart team, so we just know we’re going to have to be on our toes and ready to play.”

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