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Volleyball: Knights gain momentum as Chargers search for answers

West Central Area senior Gabbi Beuckens celebrates a kill with her teammates during a 3-0 win at Brandon-Evansville on Monday night. (Eric Morken | Echo Press) 1 / 2
Brandon-Evansville setter Madison Quinn sets up outside hitter Haddey Zastrow for a kill during Monday's match against West Central Area. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)2 / 2

Two area teams moving in somewhat different directions right now met in Evansville on Monday night.

The Brandon-Evansville volleyball team is trying to find itself a bit after losing its two middle hitters to injury earlier this season. The Chargers lost to Ashby (2-8) for the first time in 10 seasons last Thursday.

At West Central Area, the Knights had lost five straight dual matches but finished second at the Hancock Tournament this past Saturday with a 2-1 record. Then on Monday, WCA rolled over Brandon-Evansville in straight sets 25-19, 25-22 and 25-14.

“We’ve come a long way,” Knights head coach Amy Linn said. “We’ve really tried to work on a quicker offense. It seems like when we put those pieces together, we’re way more successful. We did that this weekend a little bit, and I think it kind of carried over into today’s match.”

Things didn’t start all that well for WCA on Monday. The Chargers looked like the more aggressive team and jumped out to an early lead in the first set.

The Knights responded and gained control midway through that set. They fought through a back-and-forth second set that was put away by a Brianna Kreft kill before controlling the third set from start to finish.

“We had a bad start, and our mindset changed,” WCA senior middle hitter Gabbi Beuckens said. “We just told each other that we could keep going. We did that, and it worked well.”

Beuckens had six kills and served 100 percent. As a team, the Knights served at a 97-percent clip, had 32 kills and 59 digs. Kreft led the way with 10 kills, nine assists and 12 digs, while Morgan Woodle added eight kills and eight digs.

“I have a really, really good group of girls,” Linn said. “They’re very coachable. They’ve never done it before, so I just think it took a little bit of time to buy in. Once they’ve seen some success with it, now they’re ready to go.”

The Knights are now 7-8 on the season with some recent wins to fall back on for confidence. Linn wants them to keep realizing the things that have led to some of that success.

“I just hope to continue what we’re doing,” she said. “I hope we continue to learn each day. I told them that in the huddle. This is not just about winning. We need to run the things that we do because we need to learn, and we’re only going to get better if we continue to learn.”

For a team that finished 7-14 a year ago, WCA has set its sights on improving every match and improving on that win total as a result.

“We go a little bit match by match, but last year we were 7-14,” Beuckens said. “That’s not how we really want it to go. Really, our goal right now is to be .500 this season. We’re almost there. Hopefully this week we can pull out another win to get there and stay there.”

The Chargers have the same 7-8 record as WCA but have now lost two straight. Brandon-Evansville showed flashes early in the first set on Monday and again in the second. The Chargers just couldn’t find the consistency needed to close out a win.  

“I think the girls were communicating, they just weren’t listening,” B-E head coach Kelly Olson said. “Pretty disjointed out there on the floor and waiting for somebody else to make a play. I can handle a physical error – a shanked pass, a mishit ball, a bad set. Mental errors are kind of tough to swallow.”

The Chargers lost both of their starting middle hitters earlier this year. Megan Lauthen, a 5 foot, 11-inch junior, tore her ACL in the first match. Elizabeth Schiele, a 5 foot, 11-inch senior, then suffered a severe ankle sprain not long after. Schiele was still in a walking boot as she cheered her teammates on from the bench on Monday. Olson said there is hope that Schiele could get back on the court at some point this season but that there is still swelling that has to go down.

“For a while there, I thought we were all right,” Olson said of overcoming those injuries. “The girls had come together and they were playing with focus. They were doing things right. It seems here in the last week and a half or so they’ve stopped listening to each other and started being more apprehensive.”

Without their starting middle hitters, the Chargers have worked to get the ball to outside hitters like Allie Satterlie and Bailey Schaefer. Satterlie had nine kills against the Knights, and Schaefer had eight, while Haddey Zastrow and Madison Quinn each added four.

“Our plan right away was to pump it outside,” Olson said. “That’s all fine and dandy for a while, but teams pick up on that. (Allie) is good enough to take on two blockers. I actually think Bailey is too, but those kids get wore out. Every swing takes a toll.”

The Chargers are in a busy portion of their schedule that includes three matches this week. They welcome in Hillcrest Lutheran Academy on Tuesday before Parkers Prairie comes to Evansville on Thursday as they try to get back on the winning track.   

“We’re trying to find the answer here,” Olson said. “We’re just trying to get through this and see what we can do.”

WCA 3, B-E 0

(25-19, 25-22, 25-14)

WCA - Brianna Kreft - 10 kills, 9 assists, 12 digs; Morgan Woodle - 8 kills, 8 digs, 1 block; Gabbi Beuckens - 6 kills, 8 digs, 2 blocks; Hannah Anderson - 4 kills; Hailey Bennett - 1 kill, 16 assists, 6 digs, 1 block; Kaitlyn Sanstead - 1 ace, 18 digs

B-E - Bailey Schaefer - 8 kills, 1 block, 1 assist, 9 digs; Allie Satterlie - 2 aces, 9 kills, 1 assist, 10 digs; Allison Sturges - 3 digs; Sara Jacobson - 2 digs; Payton Schaefer - 1 kill, 1 assist, 5 digs; Haddey Zastrow - 4 kills; Madison Quinn - 1 ace, 4 kills, 3 blocks, 21 assists, 2 digs; Emily Bukkila - 6 digs; Mikenna Pattrin - 1 kill, 1 block

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229