An inconsistent passing game hindered the Mankato West volleyball team Tuesday night, as Rochester Mayo came away with a 25-8, 23-25, 25-16, 25-18 Big Nine Conference victory at the West gym.
After the Spartans dominated the opening set, a much more spirited effort in Game 2 enabled West to even things at a game apiece. However, the Scarlets’ inability to generate a steady offensive attack the rest of the way enabled Mayo to close things out over the next two games.
“We just need to work on getting our passes in front of the 10-foot line,” West coach Stacy Jackson said. “If we can get our passes where they need to be, we’ll have a successful offense. Our passing got better in the second game and our block coverage also got better. We started blocking across before we switched things up and tried to do what we could against their hard hitting.”
Mayo (2-1, 1-0 in Big Nine) dominated Game 1 from the start, jumping out to an 8-1 lead behind two kills and an ace block from junior outside hitter Kennedy Hady.
After West senior Kayla Grunst’s sideline kill made it 8-2, senior setter Kelly Klees’ no-look ace dump ignited Hady’s seven-point service run and expanded the Spartans’ cushion to 16-2. Senior outside hitter Jaydn Koestering then ripped three of her team-best 16 kills to help finish things off.
“We were able to keep our heads up the whole match and were able to hit well a times,” Jackson said. “We had a tremendous student section here, and that really helped keep our energy up. I thought our girls stayed up and did a good job of encouraging each other.”
West (1-2, 1-1) used that energy to turn things around early in the second contest as kills from senior outside hitter and junior middle hitter Mattea Burmeister helped fuel an early 6-1 surge. Burmeister, who led the Scarlets with 13 kills, continued her onslaught with six more ace hits, including a cross-court rocket which put West in front 13-10.
Mayo continued to hang tough before a block and off-speed hit from Grunst produced a 19-13 West advantage. After a trio of ace hits from Koestering along with two middle stuffs from 6-foot-3 junior middle hitter Anna Miller tied things at 23, Bergeman’s slicing spike gave the Scarlets a 24-23 lead. Senior defensive specialist Zoe Koberoski then came up with a nifty diving dig, allowing Bergeman to squeeze a game-ending kill through a pair of blocks.
“We had a very slow start in the first game,” Bergeman said. “We realized we needed to pick it up in the second game and we focused a lot more on where the open spots were on the court. We began to target those areas and things began to work our for us. Their middles were tall so they covered a lot of area over the net so we had to go around them.”
Bergeman belted a pair of kills in the early stages of Game 3 while Burmeister tallied a kill and block in helping the Scarlets gain a 7-6 lead. However, Klees and Koesterling took over from there in leading the Spartans to a 25-16 decision. Klees ended up with eight ace hits, three ace blocks and 30 set assists while Hady and Emma Goss chipped in eight kills apiece.
“We weren’t ready and obviously underestimated them,” Grunst said. “We need to come out strong starting with the pass and go from there. We figured we needed to get the first couple of points and then go from there. We couldn’t afford to get in a hole and then try to work our way back because they’re a very good team. We were able to find the court better in the second game even if the sets we’re a little off. ... We need to work on getting our passing more consistent.”
Grunst finished with eight kills while Burmeister totaled six kills and a trio of ace blocks. Senior Ellie Blackman and junior Mayla Hanson contributed five ace hits apiece for the Scarlets.
“We knew we had to pick up our energy level if we were going to stay in it,” Bergeman said. “I liked how everyone kept a positive attitude most of the time. Right now, we need to work on our communication and our overall passing. ... We also need to be smart under pressure.”
West will host Owatonna Thursday.