Heartland Lutheran had mixed results on the court Thursday night but opened its season to positive reviews.
The Red Hornets went 1-1 at their quadrangular, defeating St. Edward 25-23, 25-16 and then falling to Nebraska Christian 25-13, 25-16.
Heartland Lutheran coach Kathryn Langrehr gave her team credit for coming out and playing with confidence.
"I really am proud of how the girls have come around," Langrehr said. "We were making adjustments and working the floor, and we showed a better understanding of the basics tonight.
"We came out hesitant at first against St. Edwards, and that showed in the first game. As the match progressed we did some things better in terms of moving towards the ball and showing more confidence in the backrow."
Nebraska Christian overcame a 24-18 deficit in its opener against Palmer, coming back to defeat the Tigers 26-24 25-12. In the third match of the night, St. Edward defeated Palmer 25-11, 25-17.
In the night’s final match, Nebraska Christian was able to mount heavy pressure from all over the court, and found its greatest success with senior Cailyn Ostrand at the front corner. Ostrand finished the match with nine kills and an ace block, as she challenged the bigger Red Hornet lineup throughout the match.
"Cailyn was a setter for us the first two years," Eagles coach Tonya Ostrand said. "Last year we needed some more hitters and she stepped up for us. She’s still developing at the position, but when she’s on she can really help us."
The Eagles were able to put together a couple of quick early bursts to build a lead in the first set against the Red Hornets. Emily Simmons notched three quick points, helped by a pair of Heartland Lutheran hitting errors, but the Red Hornets responded with a kill from Claire Hiegel and an ace block to briefly Knot the score at 4-4.
Ostrand then delivered three straight kills and an ace block, and Heartland Lutheran hurt itself with back-to-back net calls. That helped push the lead to 12-4, and despite more consistent play defensively, the Red Hornets were unable to close the gap. After another kill by Ostrand, Amber Mazankowski dropped a pair of aces on the Red Hornets for a decisive 25-13 first game win.
The second game unfolded in very similar fashion, as Nebraska Christian again was able to use a pair of early bursts to establish a lead at 11-5. After trading sideouts twice, the Red Hornets made their strongest move of the night with Justine Bader at the line.
Bethany Hollman forced a kill past Mazanowski, then after an ace by Bader, got an ace block. A hitting error by the Eagles allowed Heartland Lutheran to draw within one at 13-12, but the final points of the match would be a painful lesson for the Red Hornets. Nebraska Christian finished the match with a 12-4 run, as aggressive serving appeared to overwhelm the Heartland Lutheran defense.
Ostrand gave her team credit for bouncing back from some tough moments early on and playing some very solid ball.
"I was absolutely thrilled with the character we showed in the first set. Volleyball is a game of ups and downs, but we never gave up. Against Heartland, we knew they had the height advantage, so we knew we had to be aggressive and keep them out of system."
"We have to work on facing different offenses," Langrehr said. "It’s my job as the coach to help them adjust to things that are different. I don’t want the girls to walk out with their heads down tonight. They need to have pride in what they’re doing. We’ve got good chemistry, and the girls realy want to play together."
Nebraska Christian ............... 25 25
Heartland Lutheran .............. 13 16
Scoring — NC, Mazankowski 14 (6 aces), Cailyn Ostrand 6 (3 aces), Simmons 5 (1 ace); HL, Hollman 4, Bader 4 (1 ace), Schmitt 1 (1 ace). Kills — NC, Cailyn Ostrand 9, Mazankowski 4, Cassidy Ostrand 3; HL, Hollman 6 kills.
Heartland Lutheran def. St. Edward 25-23, 25-26
Nebraska Christian def. Palmer 26-24, 25-12
St. Edward def. Palmer 25-11, 25-17