Special to The Free Press
Even though both Mankato Loyola and Nicollet wore blue uniforms, the Fitzgerald gym was decked out in pink Thursday night for a Valley Conference volleyball match.
As part of a “Dig Pink” event to raise breast cancer awareness, Loyola won in four tightly contested sets, 25-23, 25-23, 24-26, 25-20.
The Crusaders fell behind early in the first two sets of the match but fought back to win both. In the first set, Loyola didn’t take its first lead until it hit 21 points. Junior Kelly Headington helped close out the game with two blocks, including one to end the game for a 25-23 win.
“That’s one thing we’ve been working on,” Loyola coach Kali Gosch said. “The end result is what matters. We have to be able to complete the match.”
Nicollet jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the second set before Loyola went on its second come-from-behind win. Loyola scored 12 of the next 13 points to take a 15-9 advantage. Mary Pfau and Jordyn Theuninck contributed service aces in the run.
Following a timeout, the Raiders came back with a run of their own, scoring nine of the game’s next 11 points to take an 18-17 lead.
Loyola scored the game’s final three points of the game, however, highlighted by a kill from senior Kelcie Parsons to take the second game 25-23.
“With having a huge crowd, it was very intense tonight,” said Parsons, who led Loyola with 13 kills. “It’s always easier to comeback when you have that kind of atmosphere.”
The reason for the huge crowd was the “Dig Pink” event. It was the third year Loyola held the event, and the second year involving the volleyball team. The event involves a silent auction with items up for bid like a volleyball signed by both teams and gift cards.. Both teams came out in special warm-ups to commemorate the event. Loyola wore pink, while Nicollet came out in white tops with pink numbers.
Melissa Strachan, mother of Loyola junior Jordyn Strachan said the goal of the event is to have something to donate locally.
“We have a few members of the Loyola community who have breast cancer that we decided to come together and do whatever we could to support the family,” she said.
Last year, they raised $5,700 and this year it was estimated that $5,000 will be raised.
After Nicollet won the third game, Loyola didn’t need its comeback magic to win the fourth game. The Crusaders used a mid-game spurt to take an 18-12 lead and closed it out from there when Olivia Zwaschka tapped over a shot to win the match.
Strachan was second on the team with 12 kills. Jordyn Theuninck led the defense with 15 digs. Annie Nawrocki had five blocks while Parsons added four blocks.
Loyola (12-12, 4-6 in Valley) will close out the regular season with a home match Tuesday against Maple River. Nicollet (6-14-1, 4-5) will play Monday at Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton.