College volleyball: Minnesota West falls in three
BY AARON HAGEN
WORTHINGTON -- It’s a brutal stretch of matches for the Minnesota West volleyball team as two of the top 10 teams in the nation visit this week.
Up first was a matchup against No. 8 Ridgewater on Wednesday night.
The Warriors started strong in a 3-0 victory.
“They are very good,” MW head coach Marie Johnson said following the 25-19, 25-9, 25-19 loss. “We knew that when we played them in Ridgewater. Set No. 1 when we played in Ridgewater, I felt like we came out a little bit shell shocked. I thought we worked on some things this last week in preparation for Ridgewater. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough.”
The road doesn’t get easier for the Lady Jays, who host the nation’s No. 4-ranked team, Minnesota State Fergus Falls, on Friday night.
“We’re definitely excited about that, we went five with them in Fergus,” Johnson said. “We ended up losing the fifth set 15-13, so it was a little bit of a heartbreaker. We’re definitely looking to pick ourselves back up, hold our heads high and move forward from this Ridgewater match. There are things we can learn from it and there’s things we need to prepare for Fergus Falls.”
The Lady Jays spotted the Warriors an 8-point lead in the first set, 10-2, but outscored them the rest of the way in a six-point loss.
“We talked about that,” Johnson said. “Once it clicked, we really had momentum and we had drive. We were aggressive and we were excited to be out on the court. But we gave them way too much in the beginning.”
RW had leads of 10-2, 11-3 and 12-4 before West started to mount its comeback. Andrea Hinkeldey had a hit off a free ball as MW clawed back within five. RW pushed the lead back to nine points, 20-11, but Hinkeldey responded with a kill and a well-placed tip for the Lady Jays. Katherin Ihnen had a block and a kill late in the first set, but the lead was too much as RW took the first game.
“Set No. 1, we definitely dug ourselves too much of a hole,” Johnson said. “We didn’t start playing until about halfway through the match. Then we had some really great runs. But it’s really hard to come back. When that happens and it’s so early on, it’s hard mentally to come back.”
The second game was much of the same as RW led 9-1 early. MW wasn’t able to get much going offensively as it found itself down two games to none.
“There was a different combination of players Ridgewater put on the court in Set 2,” Johnson said. “They had a much more aggressive middle out there. In Set No. 2, we saw people shut down on our team and we weren’t coming together. The look, unfortunately, on the faces was of defeat. I think they were disappointed in themselves with how they were playing. We just couldn’t connect.”
Aided by a pair of ace serves by Emma Woelber, the Lady Jays had a much better start to the third set. Hannah Neuman had a key kill, and Ihnen had a kill a few points later to give the Lady Jays a 9-8 advantage. The Warriors started to slowly pull away late as they led by seven points, 23-16.
But Neuman had a block and Hinkeldey had an ace to pull within four. That was as close as Minnesota West could get in the final game as Ridgewater closed out the sweep.
On a tough night for the West hitters against a stout front line for Ridgewater, Ihnen (two blocks) and Hinkeldey each had six kills for West, while Woelber finished with 16 set assists. Micheine Morales had 11 digs.
“They look at me on the bench and they are like, ‘Where do we go? What do we do?’ The biggest thing I told them at that point is we need to put more emphasis on our hitter that’s faking,” Johnson said. “There’s nothing to do about two blockers unless you can mentally psych the other blocker out. Even if you can pull them for a half second longer, it puts the block timing a little bit off. We really need to work on the aggressiveness of our hitters that aren’t actually going to be getting the ball. That’s something we’re going to be doing in practice as well.”