The Brandon-Evansville volleyball team struggled through much of the night in its home opener on Tuesday, but the Chargers finished things with a flurry in the fifth set to beat Battle Lake.
The Battlers pushed Brandon-Evansville and had the Chargers on the ropes after controlling the third 25-16 to take a 2-1 lead. B-E responded by stealing the fourth in a 25-23 final and then dominating the fifth 15-3 to walk away with the win.
“We flipped our rotation, and I think that really helped,” junior setter Korrie Randt said of the change in the fifth set. “We started with a different server, and obviously tonight we did not do the best in serving. Brittany (Korkowski) is really consistent with her serves, and I think it was a good switch for us.”
Korkowski stopped the bleeding from the serving line after B-E had struggled with those fundamentals much of the night. The Chargers served at an 84.8-percent clip overall, but they put that behind them and grabbed a 5-1 lead in the blink of an eye in the fifth. That quickly turned into a 10-1 advantage and all but ended any of the Battlers’ hopes.
“We talked about going out and doing our jobs,” Chargers head coach Kelly Olson said. “We played defense for the first time, we transitioned for the first time all night. We kept our serves in for the first time all night, and we passed the ball up to the setter box and we could run offense. It was honestly the first time we did anything all night. You got to give credit to Battle Lake. They made a point to win points in other ways and keep us under pressure, and we struggled with it.”
In the end, Brandon-Evansville’s record still reads 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the Little Eight Conference. The Chargers are working a couple new players into the starting rotation this season at important spots in senior libero Kristen Kokett and Randt at setter.
Randt’s role last season was being the captain of the cheer squad as the vocal leader from the bench. She was admittedly nervous in the season opener against Hancock. She said her sets aren’t always where they need to be right now, and that can be frustrating for her, but she’s getting used to a new role on the court.
“My role used to be just act like I’m a chicken with my head cut off on the bench,” Randt said with a smile. “Now I have to tone it down, be serious and actually play the game. That was a bit of a switch for me, but I think I’m stepping into that role of being captain on the court and captain of the cheer squad.”
Randt was able to get the ball to her hitters plenty in the final set. Junior outside hitter Bailey Schaefer put down an emphatic kill to end the match in style, but it had been a struggle for the Chargers to run their offense before that for much of the night.
Brandon-Evansville led 19-13 in the first set until Battle Lake rallied for a 27-25 win. Even a 25-18 win in the second set couldn’t switch the momentum in the Chargers favor as the Battlers played their best in the third with a 25-16 win.
“I think Battle Lake jumped on us pretty quick with their leadoff server and planted a little seed of doubt,” Olson said. “Then it took a while to recover. I had to pull some girls out and have talks with them. Nobody got yelled at because we don’t want to do that, but we had to think our way through that. We had to grind it out. They kept us off balance and sometimes that’s the way it goes and you hope you win enough points until you can take control at the end. That’s what happened tonight, but it could have just as easily not have happened.”
Olson said the message to his players after this one was to learn from it.
“Just because they think they’re going to win, they need to go out and do things fundamentally,” he said. “We waited until the fifth set to do anything fundamentally. It seemed like there were six different people out on the court instead of one unit until the fifth set.”
The Chargers played just well enough to escape with the win after Olson was left searching for answers at different points of the match.
“We missed five serves in a row, and I was just throwing people out on the floor at some points trying to get something to stick,” Olson said. “Kylee Dingwal, our eighth-grade JV and backup setter, stopped that string. That was a good step up for her in a pressure situation, so she should be happy with what she did.”
The Chargers have a chance to move on quickly with a road trip to Rothsay on Thursday night. Just two matches in, there is plenty of opportunities left to let this close win serve as a springboard to better play going forward.
“We’re taking this victory as a learning experience,” Randt said. “It should not have happened like this. We did not really play volleyball tonight until that last set, so we’re definitely learning from it and it’s going to be better.”
B-E 3, BATTLE LAKE 2
(25-27, 25-18, 16-25, 25-23, 15-3)
B-E - Kailee Klimek - 3 aces, 12 kills, 1 block, 8 digs; Bailey Schaefer - 13 kills, 1 assist, 10 digs; Kristen Kokett - 1 kill, 5 digs; Brittany Korkowski - 5 kills, 3 assists, 4 digs; Mikenna Pattrin - 3 aces, 10 kills, 2 blocks, 2 assists, 1 dig; Korrie Randt - 1 kill, 40 assists, 8 digs; Haddey Zastrow - 6 kills, 1 dig; Taylor Yeats - 1 kill