by ADAM GRUENEWALD
An injury and a slow start combined with a the hard hitting of Maddie Kleschult proved to be Central volleyball’s undoing in a thrilling home loss to Minnesota River Conference opponent Le Sueur-Henderson on Thursday, 3-2.
Game scores were 18-25, 25-11, 25-20, 18-25 and 13-15.
Ahead 2-1 heading into game four, outside hitter Nicole Miller’s left knee injury resulted in her sitting the last two decisive games, Coach Sarah Hammers.
“It’s a scary thing, her first real major injury so just being cautious there,” she said.
Tied at 4-4 in game five the Giants’ Kleschult rattled off two kills and the Raiders carried the ball for a 7-4 lead. The two teams exchanged points as the Giants built a 12-8 lead, their largest of the game which they would hold onto.
“Le Sueur used strategy and they worked at it and made it happen,” she said. “We came out sluggish and we do that every single time.”
The Raiders started slow in game one, falling behind 11-19. Meagan Sons then served the Raiders to several straight points with a ace, followed by a pair of kills by Megan Knickerbocker and one by Sami Jo Brinkmann which made it 17-19, but LS-H closed the game.
The Raiders jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the second game and, with Brinkmann serving, later scored seven straight for a 16-5 lead. Included in the string were an ace by Brinkmann and kills by Meagan Sons and Knickerbocker.
Ahead 20-10 the Raiders got out of rotation serving leading to a brief delay in action, but Brinkmann would record a couple of kills as they closed the game.
Brinkmann carried the momentum into the second game recording two aces for another 3-0 advantage and would lead 15-9. The Giants cut the lead to 18-17, but Central scored seven of the last nine for the win.
The Giants built an early advantage in game four and were ahead 9-3, but Kaylie Brazil recorded a kill during another series of points with Brinkmann serving to cut it 9-8. LS-H would push the advantage to 18-13 behind the play of Kleschult and would win game four, setting up game five.
Knickerbocker and Brinkmann both had double-digit kills for the Raiders with 17 each as Brazil added five and Abby Forner and Nicole Miller each had four.
Brazil went 21-21 from the service line with one ace, Brinkmann went 20-21, Nicole Miller went 9-10 with an ace, Natalie Stockman went 16-16 and Megan Miller went 13-13. Stockman also had 38 assists.
Defensively, Knickerbocker had five total blocks the Raiders had five players with double-digit digs – Brazil (35), Stockman (21), Grace Wickenhauser (20), Megan Miller (13) and Nicole Miller (11).
“To me Brazil was the star tonight she was cutting off balls, she was passing,” said Hammers. “Brazil is the reason we went five games.”
Next up, the Raiders (15-9) hosted Sibley East on Tuesday and will travel to face Jordan tonight before hosting Belle Plaine for the last match of the regular season on Oct. 15.
Hammers said her team needed to cut down on their mistakes going forward.
“We can’t miss serves,” she said. “That’s mental. They are senior girls going back there and they’re not saying positive things in their head and they’re missing their serves. That’s a huge difference in the game.”
Contact Adam Gruenewald at email@example.com.