By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
When it came to the crucial fifth set, Mankato West relied heavily on its top hitters, juniors Molly Lohman and Megan Hulscher.
And the two didn’t disappoint, combining for 11 kills in the first-to-15 set.
“Molly and Megan have powerful swings,” West coach Sarah Kirby said. “They’re go-to hitters, and you need girls like that. We just have to cut down on our hitting errors.”
Lohman had 20 kills and Hulscher added 12 as the Scarlets defeated Mankato East 3-2 in a Big Nine Conference volleyball match Tuesday at the East gym. Set scores were 25-23, 20-25, 25-12, 13-25, 15-11.
“I think we thought this would be an easier match, but (East) came out strong,” Lohman said. “We just needed to respond.”
West grabbed the early lead in the first set, with the biggest margin coming at 18-11 on Jessica Goerger’s kill. However, East rallied to tie at 23, scoring three straight points, including Allison Taylor’s tip and an ace serve by Claire Ziegler.
But West rebounded as Megan Hulscher had a hard kill, and Krista Goerger had a service ace that ended the set.
“It’s all about confidence,” East coach Mary Nelson said. “That’s something we’ve been trying to work on, and we’re getting there.”
East went ahead 8-2 in the second set, but a five-point service run by Lohman, including an ace, helped the Scarlets get back. Hallie Hughes had three kills as West went ahead 12-10.
Taylor Karge had a couple of kills as East regained the lead at 19-17, then Ziegler had a kill and block as the Cougars finished on a 6-1 run for a 25-20 victory.
“We have plenty of hitting options, but they’re young,” Nelson said. “The kids need to have some success so we can build their confidence.”
West dominated in the third set, leading 6-2 and 16-5. Megan Hulscher had four kills and two blocks, and Lohman had five kills and two blocks as the Scarlets rolled to the 25-12 victory.
“We struggled to find any consistency,” Kirby said. “We’re still building team chemistry, and I think we did a better job tonight.”
East came right back in the fourth set as Katy Snyder had a pair of ace serves to build the lead. The Cougars took advantage of a string of West hitting errors to open a 15-7 lead, and the Scarlets didn’t answer. Ziegler nailed a pair of spikes to end the set at 25-13.
West jumped ahead 7-1 in the finale, but East pulled back within 10-9. Finally, Lohman made three kills, and Hulscher had two as the Scarlets prevailed.
“I get really pumped up when they keep feeding me,” Lohman said. “We always think we’re going to win, but they surprised us tonight. We have to expect that.”
Lohman added eight blocks and three service aces, while Hulscher had three blocks and two aces. Megan Svir made 32 assists, and Abby Leitch had 20 digs.
For East, Taylor Karge had 10 kills, followed by Allison Taylor with nine, Faith Depuydt with seven and Ziegler with six. Ziegler added three blocks, and Snyder had three ace serves. Ashlee Henderson had 38 assists.
West (8-8, 4-4 in Big Nine) plays a nonconference game Thursday at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial, while East (4-19, 1-6) hosts Big Nine-leading Owatonna on Thursday.