Norfolk sweeps Grand Island, improves to 4-2

August 29, 2018

The Norfolk High volleyball team took the confidence it gained by going 3-1 in its own invitational tournament Saturday into Tuesday’s match with Grand Island — and it showed.

The Panthers gave the home crowd plenty to cheer about with a dominating straight-sets victory over the Islanders, 25-17, 25-17, 25-12.

Norfolk opened the first set with three straight points. After an attack error made it 3-1, Grand Island’s Kaleigh Moeller reeled off five points, including a service ace, to make it 6-3.

Grand Island led 10-7 when Norfolk senior Saydee Mittlestaedt took the ball to serve and snatched the momentum with an eight-point run that included a kill from Alex Ruth, three from Gabby Ruth and a service ace.

Norfolk led 21-17 when Alex Ruth served out the set with two aces and a Gabby Ruth kill.

The Ruths and junior Jalen Hoffman all recorded multiple first-set kills.

“We spend a lot of time with (setter) Anden (Baumann), knowing where her hot hitters are, but at the same time, watching the blockers on the other side,” Norfolk coach Katie Wright-Oswald said.

“There’s instances where Alex, our middle, comes in really aggressive and that leaves somebody on the pins with a one-on-one opportunity. So Anden is learning to make those decisions, and she finds a way to get it to our hitters where they have the advantage.”

Grand Island took an early lead in the second set as well, but Gabby Ruth’s two-handed dunk kill tied it at six. Later, an ace block by Baumann gave the Panthers a 10-8 advantage.

Norfolk then scored nine of the next 11 points, during which Gabby Ruth, Hoffman and Mittlestaedt all recorded kills.

Libero Leah Petty and Baumann served aggressively during the run, which included a Petty ace and three Islander attack errors.

“We know we are not a strong passing team and we know defense isn’t our strong suit so we do everything we can to get the opponents out of system,” Wright-Oswald said. “Meaning, their setter is setting from behind the 10-foot line or their setter isn’t even setting at all. We’re going to have more missed serves than we would like but at the same time that’s going to balance out with those aces.”

A Gabby Ruth kill ended the second set and the Panthers kept their feet on the gas pedal by storming out to a 10-4 lead in the third.

A pair of tough Jaci Hunter serves helped the Islanders cut the lead to 10-7, but Ali Sovereign’s kill made it 11-7 and, later, Alex Ruth’s kill gave the Norfolk a 14-10 advantage.

That’s when Hoffman took over from behind the service line. The junior scored nine straight points, including four aces. A Mittlestaedt kill ended the match.

The win was the Panthers’ first conference victory in their new league — the Heartland Athletic Conference — and ended a four-year dry spell against Grand Island.

A Panther volleyball team hadn’t defeated an Islander squad since Oct. 14, 2014, as part of a triangular in Norfolk.

The Nebraska School Activities Association keeps season records of teams that date to the 2003 season and no Panther volleyball team posted a win against a Grand Island team between 2003 and 2013.

Wright-Oswald’s crew can’t do anything about the past but has a lot to say about the present. A week into the 2018 campaign, the Panthers are 4-2 and 1-1 in the HAC. They’ll visit Lincoln Southeast Tuesday.

Norfolk defeats Grand Island

25-17, 25-17, 25-12

GRAND ISLAND (0-4): Jaci Hunter 5k, 11d; Grace Johnson 2k, 1d; Tori Hale 1a, 2d, 5s; Rylie McNelis 1k, 1d; Kiara McInturf 3d, 10s; Kaleigh Moeller 1a, 4d; Karlea Fosket 1a, 2d; Jordyn Rhoads 11d; Calyn Haubold 7k, 1a, 2 d; Emma Hilderbrand 3k, 1b.

NORFOLK (4-2): Saydee Mittlestaedt 5k, 1a, 7d, 1s; Alex Ruth 14k, 4a, 15d, 1s; Ali Sovereign 1k, 1b, 2d; Gabby Ruth 9k, 16d; Jalen Hoffman 5k, 5a, 4 d; Anden Baumann 1a, 10d, 31s; Karly Kalin 1k, 5d; Leah Petty 1k, 8d, 1s.

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