MANKATO — Belle Plaine’s offensive diversity proved to be the difference Tuesday night as the Tigers downed Mankato East 25-17, 25-16, 25-20 in a nonconference volleyball match at the East gym.
Three Tigers — senior right-side hitter Lilli Kahle, senior outside hitter McKenna Ziemke and junior outside hitter Brianna Swenson — banged 12 kills apiece, and junior setter McKenzie Schwichtenberg collected 41 assists as Belle Plaine improved to 3-1 on the season.
“I liked the energy I saw out there,” East coach Dan Blasl said. “We showed some flashes of brilliance, but then we also struggled at times. Belle Plaine was a good measuring stick for us, and we showed we could
play with them. At the same time, we need to work on playing at that high level all the time. I think we pushed them a little bit and got them worried a little bit.
“But again, some of our inexperience and that learning curve showed as well. I think the more they play together that they will get more consistent. (Belle Plaine) hit the ball all over the court, and I was really impressed with their defense. They made some phenomenal plays on what looked like sure kills, and you can’t coach that. They were all over the floor and they showed us the tone we want to set for our program.”
East (3-2) took a 5-4 lead in Game 1 when senior left-side hitter Mackenzie Schweim belted a kill. However, Kahle’s ace hit triggered an 8-1 spurt that produced a 12-5 advantage on Swenson’s cross-court winner.
After five service points from sophomore setter Halle Huber trimmed the lead to 14-13, Leah Lenz’s sideline kill, along with two blocks from Kahle and a pair of kills from Swenson, closed things out.
“They had some big hitters, and we really need to work on our defense,” said Huber, who ended up with 18 assists and a team-best 10 digs. “I felt we played really well as a team tonight; we just need to work on our consistency and keeping our energy up. We have to work in staying high and not dropping down when we have a few problems.
“I really love this team. I have some great hitters who I have really great chemistry with and some good passers who really know me. I feel like there’s only more good things to come for us.”
East jumped out to a 7-2 lead in Game 2 behind three service points from Huber, along with a block and kill from senior middle hitter Lexi Karge. After Karge muscled a kill to make it 8-5, Kahle’s block began a six-point surge that included two kills apiece from Swenson and Kahle.
East kept things close until Swenson’s four-point service run finished off the 25-16 triumph.
“They’re a really good team, and we knew that coming in,” said Karge, who tallied seven kills and two blocks. “I think we got a little bit nervous. We need to work on the little things and keep playing smart. I think as long as the younger girls keep their confidence up, we should be solid.”
Senior libero Kylie Christofferson came up with a five-point run at the service stripe as the Cougars built a 15-9 lead in the final set. However, Ziemke’s four-kill flurry turned things around, and the Tigers got going from there.
Kahle’s kill set up Leah Lenz’s middle blast to finish off the 25-20 contest.
Schweim ripped seven kills for the Cougars, who also received five kills from Destiny Reasner.
Both teams are in action Thursday, with East hosting Big Nine Conference power Northfield and Belle Plaine playing at Lester Prairie.