New Ulm blows leads, falls to Waseca in sweep

By Jake Calhoun

Journal Sports Writer

NEW ULM – Poised to snap its 10-match losing streak, the New Ulm volleyball team made big plays and strung together some nice runs.

But when it came to the points that mattered most, New Ulm buckled in falling to Waseca 26-24, 25-20, 25-23 in a Big South Conference volleyball match on Saturday.

The Eagles (2-17, 1-9 Big South) got to set point at 24-22 in the first game before allowing four-straight points – including consecutive attack errors – to cough up a 1-0 lead in the match.

“It’s tough in the first set when you’re up 23-19 to not finish it off,” New Ulm coach Zach Hansen said. “It’s just been a mental hurdle that we have not been able to overcome this year.”

The Bluejays (4-14, 4-6) finished that first set on a 10-3 run after the Eagles took a 21-16 lead that forced Waseca coach Lindsey Weiers to call a timeout.

Waseca used this momentum in the second set with two-straight aces out of the gate for junior setter Beth Stankiewicz. Aside from a few small lead changes here or there, Waseca ultimately won the second set 25-20 despite having Stankiewicz go down to a knee injury midway through.

New Ulm bounced back in Set 3, jumping out to an 8-2 lead and ultimately leading by as much as eight at 21-13 after a huge block by senior middle Dani Hogue.

From there, however, Waseca turned the tables with a 9-1 run that ended with big service aces by freshman Lexi Herman and a block by freshman Rachel Breck. New Ulm regained the lead after an opposing serve went into the net, but Waseca won the last three points to end the match.

With the Section 3AA playoffs coming up, Hansen is trying to get his team past its mental demons that have been plaguing it for most of the season.

“It’s a combination of a couple things,” Hansen said. “It’s the fight – and I challenged our team on the fight and we responded well with that in that last set and played well. But the other part of it is the execution – in those clutch moments in a game, you’ve got to be at your peak execution and you’ve really got to make sure you’re at the top of your game. We just haven’t been.”

Hogue led the Eagles with six kills and three blocks as well as two service aces. Madison Suess had three service aces and four kills, while Mackenzie Depew had four kills and two blocks. Kayla Brandes and Emma Bute each had five set assists apiece and Sarah Longtin had 25 digs.

Herman led the match with eight kills and four aces for Waseca, while Madison Gehloff had seven kills.

New Ulm plays in the Big South Crossover on Tuesday at Luverne.