MMCRU juggles the pieces to get volleyball win over South O’Brien

Friday, September 23, 2022
(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Avery Schlenger digs up a ball in the team’s match against South O’Brien on Tuesday. Schlenger tied for the team lead with 14 digs and led the way with 15 kills in the win.

MARCUS — MMCRU Head Coach Heather Youde knew before the season she was going to have to juggle some pieces around to create a new lineup after graduating eight players from last year’s roster. What she probably didn’t expect was to have to continue to move pieces during the heart of the season.

The Royals have had to mix things up once again with injuries sidelining senior Kora Alesch, who had made the transition from libero to hitter, and junior Mykin Youde, the team’s expected replacement at libero.

“Kora got injured during the Hinton game and I’m pretty sure she’s done for the season, unfortunately,” Youde said. “Mykin, our libero, got a concussion last week. Hopefully she’ll be back next week, but Breanna Staab is doing a great job as the libero coming in.”

Youde said the team has continued to adapt and work to grow as one unit on the court.

“It’s just a lot of teamwork with our girls right now and just making sure we communicate, but also just have fun and play loose,” Youde said.

Tuesday’s War Eagle Conference match against South O’Brien was emblematic of how the team has adapted from start to finish. After losing the first set, the Royals regrouped as a team and were able to rattle off wins in the next three sets to take the match.

The Wolverines were able to pull away from the Royals at the end of the first set by scoring seven of the final 10 points for the 25-20 win. Maddie Johnson hit the penultimate kill and Marissa Ebel finished off the frame with one of her seven kills in the match which tied with Karlee Warnke for most on the team.

“I told them two things. First, stop missing serves because we were giving them way too many free points,” Youde said she told the team after the first set loss. “Then, just being light on our feet. It almost looked like we were playing in sludge. We were always behind. We weren’t being proactive, we were being reactive with everything they were giving us.”

The Royals held a slim lead throughout most of the second set. Kennedy Tentinger got an ace to make it 3-1 early in the frame and then broke a 7-7 tie with a kill. MMCRU led the rest of the way after the kill.

A kill from Emma Reuter forced a timeout with the Royals up 17-12. While the Wolverines did claw back to within one at 21-20, MMCRU was able to even the match at one game apiece as Isabelle Olson got a kill for the 24th point and a hit into the net by the Wolverines clinched a 25-21 win.

Youde said Olson, who splits setting responsibilities with Jadyn Young, has stepped up into a bigger attacking role with some of the adjustments the team has made. Olson finished third on the team with nine kills while her 15 assists were three behind Young.

“Belle’s been an awesome leader for us not only setting but hitting,” Youde said.

Young helped the Royals off to their best start of the match in the third. The Royals jumped out to a 5-0 advantage which led to a timeout by South O’Brien. Young then dropped in back-to-back ace serves to extend the lead to 7-0 before the Wolverines were finally able to get a side-out. She led the team with three aces in the match.

“Jadyn’s serves are amazing when they’re on. That’s why I like to start with the game off with her, too, to try to get ahead,” Youde said.

The third set ended with a 25-14 score on an ace serve from Torey Tentinger, the second of her two in the game and part of nine total for the Royals in the match.

A pair of kills from Avery Schlenger helped the Royals get a few points of separation late in the fourth to be able to secure the match win with a 25-20 score. Schlenger ended as the team’s leading attacker with 15 kills as she and Hannah Neddermeyer each finished in double digits with kill efficiencies just under .300. Neddermeyer ended with 10 kills for the match.

(Sentinel Photo By Allen Hamil) Hannah Neddermeyer goes up for an attack in Tuesday’s match against South O’Brien. She finished second on the team with 10 kills.

“Avery and Ned do a great job in our middles,” Youde said. “We had talked about maybe moving them to the outside, but we need their blocking in the middle. They just do such a good job of transitioning in the middle where a lot athletes sometimes struggle with that. I love them in the middle and they’ve stepped up and had some great hits.”

Schlenger and Olson led the defense with 14 digs, one more than Breanna Staab, who has taken the libero jersey while Youde has been out.

The win was the sixth in a row in the series for the Royals who just beat the Wolverines by a 2-1 score at Cherokee’s tournament just a few days earlier.

South O’Brien fell to 3-14 with the loss and 1-4 in conference matches.

MMCRU improved to 7-12 with the win and 2-3 in conference play. Coach Youde said she hopes most of the shuffling of players into different roles is done and the team can work on solidifying their work as a team prior to their next match at Unity Christian on Sept. 29.

“We’ve just got to clean up some things, blocking, some serve receive things early on, and just making sure when we piece things together, we flow in each rotation and that everyone trusts each other,” Youde said.

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