Knights hold off Chargers, stay unbeaten
NEW ULM — While Minnesota Valley Lutheran handed Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s its first set loss of the season on Tuesday night, the Knights were too much for the Chargers to get past in the end.
The Knights defeated the Chargers 25-9, 25-21, 20-25, 25-17 in Tomahawk Conference volleyball action at MVL High School.
The Knights (11-0, 3-0) were led by Madison Mathiowetz’s 25 kills, 16 digs and six blocks, while Jaci Domeier had 16 kills, six digs and two blocks. Also for the Knights, Bella Hoffmann had 30 set assists, five ace serves and nine digs, Allie Labat had 22 set assists and eight digs and Abigail Schwartz had six kills, five blocks and nine digs.
The Chargers (3-7, 1-2) were led by Ella Schlei’s nine kills and seven blocks, while Abbie Riederer had 18 digs and eight kills. Samantha Dalueg had 15 set assists for MVL, while Lili Mohror had seven kills and three blocks and Kaylee Hunter had 12 set assists and nine digs.
The Knights had won 27 sets in a row this season before the Chargers earned a win against them by taking Set 3 on Tuesday.
After a rocky first set that was complete St. Mary’s domination, the Chargers picked things up late in Set 2 to make things interesting and gain some momentum. Leading 22-13 after a kill by Mathiowetz, the Chargers took a timeout and came out of it with an 8-2 run to trail 24-21.
The Chargers got their block going late in that second set to help guide them in their comeback hopes, but the Knights got a kill by Mathiowetz to close the set.
The Chargers looked energized to start the third set and jumped out to an early 6-1 lead after a block and a kill by Schlei. St. Mary’s tied it once after that at 8-all after a kill by Domeier, but the Chargers were one step ahead from there out, closing the match on a 3-0 run.
Despite that loss, Knights head coach Jen Walter said she knew the Chargers weren’t going to go down easy after the first set and told her girls to learn from their mistakes in the third set.
“It’s good to be in those situations,” Walter said. “That’s what we told them, ‘It’s good to be in these situations now and learn from those mistakes.’ Then we go on to Game 4 and try to make those adjustments. When you’re going through and you’re winning, you don’t see those mistakes or you don’t see the weaknesses. So when you drop a set, you just say, ‘This is what we need to do, let’s make this adjustment.'”
In the fourth set, the Knights made that adjustment and jumped out to a 7-0 lead before Schlei stopped the run with a kill. MVL stayed with the Knights after that and pulled within 2, 15-13, after a St. Mary’s error. The Knights climbed back out to a 21-14 lead after a kill by Mathiowetz, though, forcing an MVL timeout. The Knights ended the set on a kill by Domeier.
MVL head coach Amy Pearson said she was proud of her team for staying with the unbeaten Knights and thinks a fine-tuned defense will be key the rest of the year.
“I think in the second set, we finally got the jitters out,” Pearson said. “I think that maybe we were holding back or a little nervous or intimidated coming in. If we could have erased Set 1 and just started with Set 2, I think we’d have had more fun. … I said, ‘Let’s show up to play tonight, let’s show what we have, we’ve got nothing to lose. We’re not the undefeated team coming into this.’ I was proud of the girls, how they fought back. Set 3 was a lot of fun to watch, had a lot of big blocks at the net. I think if we can start really fine-tuning our defense a little bit more, that would make a big difference for us. We’ve got some girls that can hit, we’ve just got to get the ball up to them.”
The Knights are at Sleepy Eye High School on Thursday, while MVL is at Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart on Tuesday.