By Denny Weller
Special to The Free Press
Consistency has been a problem for the Bethany Lutheran volleyball team all season long and Wednesday night was no exception as Upper Midwest Athletic Conference rival Martin Luther swept the Vikings 25-16, 25-16, 25-16 at the Sports and Fitness Center.
“We’ve been working so hard on our consistency and I feel it will turn around,” Bethany coach Sue Forrey said. “They were able to shut down our hitters and that’s a credit to them. We need to work on getting stronger defensively.”
Martin Luther (10-8 overall, 4-1 in UMAC) ripped 40 kills in the match and compiled a gaudy .344 hitting percentage in winning its 10th match over its last 12 starts. Junior outside hitter Rebecca Engelbrecht paved the way for Knights with 13 kills while freshman middle hitter Leah Nass and senior middle hitter Rachel Hein belted eight and seven kills, respectively.
“We were confident coming in and we communicated better than we have in the past,” Engelbrecht said. “Our defense has continually gotten better throughout the season and our team chemistry is getting better. We usually hit pretty well and we were able to find the gaps in mixing it up between hits and tips.” Bethany (3-16, 2-3) hung with the Knights through the early stages of each game before too many miscues and a lack of offensive firepower enabled Martin Luther to win each game by nine points. The Vikings managed to gain a 12-11 lead in Game 2 before back-to-back kills from Heather Dannel ignited an 11-2 surge that produced a 22-14 lead on Engelbrecht’s cross-court rocket.
Sophomore middle hitter Shelby Wiederhoeft, who led the Vikings with 11 kills, banged two kills and came up with a block in the early going of Game 3 as Bethany found itself trailing only 14-12 after sophomore right-side hitter Caitlin Decker registered a loose-ball kill.
However, a Vikings’ service error and Engelbrecht’s kill sparked a surge that pulled the Knights to a 23-14 cushion. Nass smacked three kills in the stretch.
“We struggled with doing the little things right,” Wiederhoeft said. “They were firing on all cylinders. They have a good setter who does well setting up their offense and they have good swings. We’ve been dealing with inconsistency all season ... we’ve been trying to work through it.”
Sophomore Miranda Maasz collected 36 set assists for the winners, who also received 12 digs from Alex Anthon. Emily Franzon tallied 15 assists for the Vikings and Jessi Jurries came up with a team-best 11 digs.
Both teams are in action Friday with Bethany hosting Northland and Martin Luther entertaining St. Scholastica.