NEW ULM - There was little doubt that New Ulm Cathedral was the dominant team in Tuesday's volleyball match against Cedar Mountain/Comfrey, but the young Cougars still showed that they have plenty of fight.
Although the Greyhounds ended up with a 25-19, 25-16, 25-27, 25-11 victory, CM/C won the most thrilling set of the match, surviving three Cathedral match points in the process.
"We're a scrappy team, we can get the balls when we need to, we just have to always have that strive and hustle," Cougars senior Allison Madsen said. "We have some really good hitters and blocking when we actually do get up and do the things that we need to do."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Cedar Mountain/Comfrey’s Emily Ochs (5) looks on as her teammate Courtney Nelson (left) spikes the ball and New Ulm Cathedral’s Paige Pautzke sets up for a block attempt Tuesday at CHS in New Ulm.
Despite the failed attempt at a sweep, the Greyhounds put together a solid overall performance, using superior passing and timely hitting to gain the edge in the contest.
"We played well and we passed well," Cathedral senior Tori Zanke said. "When we did pass the ball up, we got it down in play. We played well as a team and brought everything together to finally pull out our win."
The home side had little trouble in the first set, holding a lead the entire way. After pulling ahead 7-3, a five-point service run by MacKinnon Ehlenz (17-for-17 serving, three aces, five kills, nine digs) gave the Greyhounds enough of a cushion to survive a late 12-6 run by the Cougars.
Cathedral's offense in the first set was anchored by Lisa Helget (14 kills, 10 digs, 16-for-17 serving, one ace), who had five kills and a service ace in the set.
Kristin Mohr (six kills, four ace blocks) stepped up for the Greyhounds in the second set, helping erase an early 7-5 CM/C lead with four kills and three ace blocks, including back-to-back ace blocks that broke a 7-7 tie to put Cathedral in control.
The Cougars ended the second set with a 7-3 rally, keeping the ball alive in stunning fashion on a number of occasions, but it was in the third set that the team finally hit its stride.
"It's always a tough game when we don't start out very good," Madsen said. "We started kind of slow, but then we came back in all the games and we did our best, but we've just got to work on our passing a little bit. After we can get that down I think we'll be a phenomenal team, if we can just get the basics down and then we can pull everything together."
The Greyhounds seemed on their way to sealing the match with a 5-0 start in the third set, but the Cougars caught up to tie the score at 6-6, after which the two teams traded the lead back and forth until the set's dramatic ending.
Cathedral erased a 17-13 CM/C lead and built a 24-21 advantage, earning three match points, but kills by Emily Ochs (seven kills, nine digs) and Madsen (four kills, 13 set assists) leveled the score at 24-24.
A kill by Cathedral's Anne Schwarz thwarted a CM/C match point before the Cougars finally took the set when the Greyhounds were unable to return a serve by Madsen.
CM/C stayed hot by pulling out to a 4-1 lead in the fourth set, but after the score was tied at 7-7 Cathedral put together a 18-4 run to end the match.
"We played really well tonight," Cathedral head coach Stef Dietz said. "We've been working really hard on our passing game the last couple of weeks, we've been really focusing on that. When we can get our passing game on, our offense seems to flow much better. We really saw some good passing and some digging tonight, our serving was key too. One thing that we were able to do tonight that we haven't done some other matches was come up with that key play, whether that was the dig or the serve or the kill, to get that win."
Though the Cougars fell to 1-4 on the season with the loss, CM/C head coach Tami Martin has seen improvement in every game from her young lineup, which includes three sophomores and one freshman.
"My girls are progressing, we're basically starting from the beginning," Martin said. "They have some really good bouts of playing. Tonight we got some blocks, we're really working on blocks. Our passing needs a lot of work, but from where we started at the beginning of the year to where we are now, we're definitely improving every game, so I'm very happy about that."
The Cougars were able to get a hand in the way of a number of the Greyhounds' hits, with Courtney Nelson (five kills, one service ace) and Brianna Lund (one service ace) combining on an ace block and Karliana Kelly and Victoria Hardwick also combining for a big ace block.
Also making strong contributions for CM/C were Erin Christensen (three service aces, five set assists) and Andrea Ochs (nine digs, one service ace).
Cathedral's statistical leaders included Paige Pautzke (19-for-20 serving, three aces, 26 set assists, seven digs), Zanke (18-for-18 serving, one ace, 11 digs) and Karlee Pfaff (17-for-17 serving, one ace, 14 digs, three kills).
The Cougars will host Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart on Thursday and the Greyhounds (4-5) will be on the road Thursday against Sleepy Eye St. Mary's.