By Denny Weller
Special to The Free Press
Top-seeded Le Sueur-Henderson languished a bit in the early going before overpowering Blue Earth Area 25-19, 25-15 25-13 Tuesday night in a volleyball match at the Mankato East gym. The triumph came in a Section 2AA, South Subsection semifinal match.
Senior middle hitter Jessica Thelemann showed her versatility in recording 25 kills for the Giants (21-8) while senior outside hitter Gabby Thomas tallied 14 winners. Senior setter Ali Plieseis collected 30 assists, two ace dumps and eight digs for the Giants.
Thomas and Allison Murphy delivered 12 digs apiece. Murphy also fired three ace serves and a team-best 15 service points.
“There was kind of a feeling out process at the start while we were trying to find our rhythm,” LSH coach Dave Nixon said. “We were standing around watching the balls hit the floor early on but then we got more aggressive and did a better job of reading. We adjusted to their off-speed hits and started digging those up.”
BEA (21-10) managed to offset Thelemann’s powerful hitting through much of Game 1 as a pair of kills each by seniors Krista Hassing and Janessa Jahnke kept the Bucs within 11-10. Thelemann then pounded four kills and Danica Tiegs added another in helping the Giants extend the margin to 17-11. After Ashton Hendricksen’s off-speed kill cut the deficit to 20-16, three Bucs’ miscues along with Plieseis’ tip and Thelemann’s scorching cross-court kill ended things.
“When it comes down to the playoffs every team is good so it’s hard to get going right away,” said Thelemann, who also had seven digs and three blocks. “Their two middles are tall so we had to switch up our shots after they blocked a few.”
Trailing 16-8 in Game 2, the Bucs rallied behind a four-point service run by Audrey McDonald and two kills from Hassing to get within 17-14. Thomas and Thelemann blasted kills to turn things around before Murphy floated two ace serves just over the net to expand the gap to 23-14. Thelemann recorded the set’s final point on a two-handed ace tip.
After the Bucs took their lone lead of the match on Hassing’s cross-court rocket to start Game 3, Thelemann’s three-kill flurry and Plieseis’ no-look ace dump triggered an 11-2 LSH surge. Thelemann continued to pound away down the stretch — lacing six ace spikes and a pair of ace tips — before Jane Fraser’s four service points finished things off, the final one coming on an ace.
“Le Sueur-Henderson is a great team and we knew what to expect,” Bucs’ coach Donna Nawrocki said. “We had them on their heels for a while but we just weren’t able to hang with them.
“I’d like to commend my players for giving their best effort tonight and all season. They’re just so solid all the way around.”
Hassing led the Bucs with 10 kills while Jahnke had eight. Senior Monica Krieger delivered 20 assists. Hassing and Jahnke came up with seven digs apiece.
LSH faces Tri-City United at 6 p.m. Thursday in the South Subsection championship at Gustavus’ Lund Center.