Norfolk drops first set then rolls over Fremont in four
The Norfolk volleyball team started slowly on Tuesday, dropping the first set to visiting Fremont. Then outside hitter Alex Ruth put the team on her back and led the Panthers to a convincing four-set victory 21-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-14.
The Panthers couldn’t seem to get out of their own way during the first set, handing the Tigers 13 points with six service and seven attack errors. Norfolk also had trouble handling Fremont’s serves, which limited opportunities at the net.
Still, the Panthers battled and late in the opening set, an Ali Sovereign kill cut the Fremont lead to 23-21. But a pair of Chelsi Judds-Krenk tip kills gave the Tigers a 1-0 advantage.
During the break between set numbers one and two, Norfolk coach Katie Wright-Oswald told her players their passing needed to improve.
“I told them ‘every time you get that ball, we want you to be confident as passers,”’ Wright-Oswald said, “because we have a phenomenal setter in Anden Baumann who’s going to take care of business and get that ball where it needs to go.”
The improved passing set up senior Alex Ruth. The senior filled up the stat sheet with five kills, two solo blocks and an ace serve in the second set alone.
Wright-Oswald said she talked to Alex after the first set. “They were running a commit block on her, so wherever she was moving, that middle was going to follow her.
“I told her ‘If Anden sees those blockers have followed you then she’s going to set to a pin,’ but Alex was on fire and we know she has that ability, just instilling that confidence in her.”
Norfolk led 20-19 when Alex recorded one of those solo blocks. That set up Baumann to serve out the set. The junior recorded a rare kill when she faked a set by sending the ball over the net to open spot in the Fremont defense. Following a Saydee Mittlestaedt kill, Baumann tied the match with two consecutive service aces.
Wright-Oswald was amazed at how well her setter played. “She was sick yesterday so she wasn’t able to come to practice and so we were kind of scrambling a little bit, ‘What are we going to do without a setter?’
“She is confident in her skills and she knows what she has to do and she’s only a junior; it’s amazing to see,” Wright-Oswald said.
Fremont scored the first two points of the third set, but it was all Norfolk after that. The Panther service game helped to keep the Tigers out-of-system as they recorded just four kills in the frame.
“We want to make sure we serve aggressive regardless of what’s happening,” Wright-Oswald said.
“We have to make sure we go back to the line confident and if they’re going to error, error deep, which we saw tonight.”
Norfolk scored the first four points in the fourth set and never led by fewer than three on the way to wrapping up the match 25-14.
The Panthers recorded three solo blocks in the final stanza and Wright-Oswald said it was the team’s best blocking performance this year. “We communicate when we block, there’s not a lot of teams that do that; they just line up and go and because we swing block we want to make sure of where we’re going and our footsteps and so that way we get up a good solid wall.”
The Panthers face a daunting challenge this weekend in the Lincoln Northeast Invitational. Norfolk will play three matches on Friday and three more on Saturday against some of the state’s best teams.
The Panthers open with the Omaha World-Herald’s third-ranked Omaha Marian. The Crusaders defeated Norfolk in straight sets two weeks ago during the Lincoln Public Schools tournament.
“It’s a tough tournament, but it’s the teams that we have to play in districts and the HAC (Heartland Athletic Conference),” Wright-Oswald said.
Norfolk defeats Fremont
21-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-14
FREMONT (9-8): Madison Moore 1a; Taylor Pemberton 4k, 1b; Hannah Wilson 3k, 1a; Elise Estudillo 2a; Lexi Proskovec 6k, 1a, 1b; Chelsi Judds-Krenk 10k, 2b; Riley Hoerath 4k, 1b; Grace Williams 2k.
NORFOLK (8-9): Karly Kalin 1k; Leah Petty 1k, 1a; Saydee Mittlestaedt 4k, 2a, 3b; Alex Ruth 16k, 2a, 5b; Ali Sovereign 5k, 1b; Gabby Ruth 11k, 4a; Jalen Hoffman 14k, 1b; Anden Baumann 2k, 3a.