by ADAM GRUENEWALD
The Central volleyball team started their season well with a convincing three-game sweep over Lester Prairie at Holy Trinity in Winsted on Tuesday. Game scores were 25-14, 25-12, 25-16.
The sweep featured plenty of extended runs for Central with multiple players contributing offensively as six players had at least four kills.
Head coach Sarah Hammers said the varied offense came a result from sophomore setters Hanna Kroells and Emily Lano.
“We had two hitters with 12 attempts and one with 14, one had 16,” she said. “Having two sophomore setters. It was nice to see they’re getting the ball to all the hitters.”
Already ahead 12-8 in game one, Kaylie Brazil served the Raiders to four straight points including an ace and kills by Megan Knickerbocker and Hanna Kroells.
Later, ahead 17-9, Alli Curson picked up a pair of kills as the Raiders later expanded the lead to 11 before taking the game.
The second game was similar with the Raiders gradually building a 18-12 advantage, before Wickenhauser sparked the Raiders to seven straight points.
Wickenhauser, who served 22-of-23 on the night, recorded four aces during the stretch to set the tone for the final game.
“Just serve deep because it’s hard for the passers to pass it up if you serve deep,” she said. “ You just keep your head up and keep serving.”
Ahead 8-4 in game three, Emily Lano served the Raiders to six straight points as Brooke Pischke recorded a pair of kills.
Lester Prairie would respond though to cut the lead to 14-12, until a kill by Kroells shifted the momentum.
“They were playing a lot scrappier all of a sudden,” said Hammers of the Bulldogs. “They were getting a lot of blocks. I could have taken a timeout but you got to see what the girls are made of and how they can get themselves out of it or not.”
“We just had to keep our head up and try to keep focusing on the game,” said Wickenhauser. “We just needed to keep pushing and didn’t want to lose that streak.”
Megan Miller then served the Raiders to a 19-12 lead before the Raiders closed out the game and the win.
“It feels good to come out strong and win the first game and work as a team,” said Wickenhauser. “Everyone worked together and it was fun.”
Overall the Raiders committed nine serving errors, which Hammers was well aware of.
“With the serving errors I’m going to put it to first game jitters but at the same time we were serving tough,” she said. “We got to see what happens the next game. If it continues we’re going to deal with it… We still need to work on our serving and serve receive.”
In addition to getting more serves in, Wickenhauser said the team has to keep playing well.
“We just got to keep our defense up and work as a team and pass the ball,” she said. “We need to keep hitting good.”
Offensively, Knickerbocker and Geis each had six kills for the Raiders.
“A lot of came on the right side,” said Hammers. “She (Geis) was doing some nice shots and placement of the ball.”
Brazil went a perfect 12-of-12 from the service line with two aces, while Kroells and Knickerbocker each had two aces and Lano had 1. Kroells finished with 16 assists and Lano had nine.
Defensively, Brazil paced the Raiders with 17 service receptions and 10 digs while Wickenhauser had 14 service receptions. Knickerbocker had the lone block for the Raiders.
The Raiders next host Glencoe-Silver Lake in their home opener on Tuesday, Sept. 2, before beginning MRC play with a match at Tri-City United tonight, Sept. 4.
They then travel to Holy Family Catholic, before a tournament at Howard Lake Waverly Winsted on Saturday, Sept. 6. The Raiders open up against Monticello and also face Eden Valley Watkins and Minneapolis Washburn.
Contact Adam Gruenewald at firstname.lastname@example.org.