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Owls win first two in sub-section VB playoffs

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The fans were out in style as Austin Steege, Evan Nelson and Dylan Reese donned unique head gear to show their school spirit.5 / 5

The Hancock Owls volleyball team started play-offs with a home match against the CGB Wolverines. The Owls have seen this team twice before during the season and knew that they were going to be scrappy.

The Owls came out a little tight and tentative in the first set and CGB made some scrappy plays to keep the ball alive. The Owls found a way to win the first set 25-23. They took control and started serving aggressive and running their offense and really dominated the next two sets with scores of 25-11 and 25-14.

The team served 96 percent, which is right where they would like it and did a nice job serving aggressive which took CGB out of their offense.

Kendra Schmidgall led the team with 18 kills and 10 digs. Courtney Greiner had a great game at the net having 16 kills and two ace blocks. Aria Walstad had 38 assists and two ace serves. Ali Reese played a very consistent match going 19/19 serving with three aces and also having 10 digs. Lauren Nelson did a nice job at the net, having nine kills and two ace blocks. Abby Ascheman played one of her best games of the season having three aces and one block. Illissa Koehl played scrappy defense coming up with six digs. Shae Brown was 11/11 serving and also played nice defense having six digs. Tara Flaten did a nice job coming into the match and playing consistent.

On Monday night, the Owls traveled to UMM to face the #4 seed Wheaton Warriors. Again they had played this team twice during the season winning both matches, but having a battle both times. The Owls knew coming into this match that they were going to have to step up their game and play a smart match in order to come out on top.

The focus was to play the style of game that has gotten them this far which is to pound the ball down. The Owls got out to an early lead in set one but struggled with passing and let Wheaton go on a seven point scoring run. The set was tight until Schmidgall got to the serving line with the score 20-20 and stayed steady on the serving line finishing out point 25 to get set one.

Set two went back and forth with both teams hitting the ball and making some nice digs. The Owls were actually down 20-22 and never gave up fighting and again Schmidgall was on the serving line with the score of 22-23 and finished out this set serving to 25 and getting a 25-23 win.

Set three started out sluggish for the Owls and they lost some focus for awhile missing some serves and struggling with passing. They continued to struggle to get any offense going, but the girls kept fighting and kept chipping away at Wheaton's lead by getting some huge blocks from Greiner, Nelson, and Ascheman to get the Wheaton hitters flustered.

The score was 22-23 when Illissa Koehl stepped to the serving line. The Owls were able to get point 23 off a big block and Wheaton then called a time-out with the score 23-23. The focus was to just get the ball on their side of the net and let them make the mistakes. Koehl stepped up and served two of the most important serves of the season. The first serve was a high loft that everyone, including the fans and Wheaton players, thought was clearly out but somehow managed to drop in for an ace serve to make the score 24-23 with match point on the line. Koehl served another high loft that was clearly out of bounds, but the Warrior defense played the ball after letting the last one drop and their pass went out of bounds and the Owls finished the match with two ace serves.

"This was a great team win and I was extremely proud of all of these girls!" said coach Kristi Fehr. "We talked before the match about fighting for every point no matter what the score and having no regrets and they really showed this tonight. We were behind in all three sets by at least three points and never once did I see panic set in or them give up. I felt that even when we were behind we still had control of the game because of the composure the girls showed."

Fehr added, "All of these girls stepped up their game showing some great leadership and hustle. We had some huge digs and blocks and our hitters did a great job finding the holes in their defense."

Schmidgall led the team with 20 kills and also had some huge serving runs going 19/20 with four aces. Greiner had another monster night at the net having 14 kills and more impressive six ace blocks. Reese played an extremely consistent match showing leadership on the floor and serving 9/9 and having 15 digs. Nelson stepped up her game in the back row having a season high 16 digs and also having nine kills.

Walstad ran the offense for the Owls coming away with 40 assists and eight digs. Ascheman again played a nice match having just one kill but having one ace block and some big digs in set three to keep the ball alive. Brown served consistently going 12/13 and also playing a consistent digging match having six digs. Koehl got some key digs during the three sets having seven for the night but more importantly coming away with those two ace serves at the end of set three to finish the game.

"Last, but certainly not least, are our girls on the bench: Tara, Lexi, Sami, Karol, Lexi, Serandon, and Karly. While these girls might not have been out there playing they were a huge part of this win by cheering the team on and helping us find the holes in the defense," Fehr continued. "This is a great group of girls and I am extremely honored to be able to coach them and hopefully continue to for a few more matches this season!"

Thursday night the Owls will play a tough Underwood team at 7 p.m., at the Minnewaska High School for the sub-section championship! Come and cheer on the team!