Fast starts, serving fuel Knights’ sweep of Aggies
By MIKE KRAFT
It took all of 50 minutes for the Our Redeemer’s Christian School volleyball team to collect its first win of the young season Tuesday.
The Knights jumped out to early leads in all three sets on the heels of their serving and cruised to a straight-set victory – 25-8, 25-6, 25-11 – in their season opener against Velva. ORCS recorded 18 aces, led by freshman setter Karlee Zablotney’s 10.
The Aggies led just once – 1-0 to open the second set. The rest of the match was dominated by the Knights, who held double-digit leads in all three games. ORCS led by as many as 17 in the first, 19 in the second and 15 in the third.
“It’s a great way to start the season,” ORCS coach Kara Nunziato said. “The girls came out ready to play and they played through every point. They did a good job tonight.”
The Knights wasted no time taking command in the opening set, winning seven of the first eight points. Sophomore middle blocker Makayla Gartner had the first three kills of the match and finished with a match-high 10. She also added two blocks.
“The match was really good,” Gartner said. “I wasn’t expecting this. We worked really well as a team and it was a really great accomplishment.”
ORCS closed out the first set with eight unanswered points. Senior outside hitter McKensie Popinga had two aces and classmate Gabi Boeckel recorded three kills during the run.
After the Aggies took a 1-0 lead to start the second set, the Knights responded with a 10-0 run. Boeckel recorded two of her three aces during that span and Gartner added three more kills. With ORCS leading 11-3, the Knights reeled off nine straight points, five thanks to Zablotney’s serving. The 5-foot-5 setter recorded five aces – three consecutive – to give ORCS a 20-3 advantage in the second set. An ace by freshman outside hitter Ryleigh Popinga closed out the set.
“It was just a great serving game,” Boeckel said. “We had a lot of aces. We worked really hard in practice to get that going and I couldn’t be prouder of the girls.”
While the Knights recorded 18 aces, they allowed just two – both by sophomore middle hitter Jonnah Lee.
“Our girls did a really good job getting that first pass to the setter,” Nunziato said. “That’s really critical when you talk about a match, that consistency in your serve receive.”
With their backs to the wall, the Aggies surrendered 15 of the first 17 points in the third set. Velva committed 12 unforced errors in the final set, the last a service error on match point.
With just one returning starter from last year, the Aggies struggled to find any rhythm. Their largest run was four unanswered to cut a 20-5 third-set deficit to 20-9. Still, Velva coach Molly Terveen said her team will be fine with time.
“They’ve got the fundamentals,” she said. “They know how to do all this stuff, it’s just putting it all together. Communicating, helping each other out, that’s a big part of it.”
Morgan Erickson and Hannah Weidler led Velva with three kills each. Sophomore setter Morgan Olson and Boeckel each had five kills for ORCS. Olson also had 13 assists.
Both teams are in action Friday at 7 p.m. The Knights travel to Kenmare and the Aggies host Berthold.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.