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Huskies end Packers’ season

By Scott A. Kolb

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

OWATONNA — Pinpoint serving and thunderous spikes led Owatonna past Austin in the quarterfinals of the Class AAA, Section One volleyball tournament.

The Owatonna Huskies fired 21 ace serves on Friday night in the three-game sweep of the Packers. Owatonna won by scores of 25-11, 25-13, and 25-14.

Up front at the net, the Huskies controlled the pace of play with 10 kills from Jordan Spatenka. Alli Rice, an outside hitter for the Huskies, also did plenty of damage to the Packers with eight kills and a half-dozen service aces.

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Despite facing the long odds of being the eighth-seed in the section and playing the top-seeded team on its home floor, the Packers were competitive throughout the match. This was the second match of the section for the Packers, while the Huskies a bye in the first round.

"Our girls came in knowing Owatonna would hit hard, and they didn’t get down," Austin coach Darica Schneider said. "We talked about redefining our goals and that helped the team stay positive in this match. The girls didn’t give up and they had fun reaching the quarterfinals of the section tournament."

The Huskies displayed their power game early in the opener and raced out to a 10-point lead. Emma Arboe hit a couple of service winners to draw the Packers within 15-7, but they got no closer in the opener.

After the first game, the Austin girls stayed more competitive. Still, it was an uphill battle the whole way as the Huskies once again jumped out to an early lead in the second game.

This time the Packers didn’t wither under the pressure and made things interesting for a time. Back-to-back kills from Rebekah Aase woke up the Austin offense and cut into the deficit. A block from Crystal Stundahl brought the Packers within 9-5.

The visitors stayed in range over the next few points exchanges. Stundahl hit a service winner to get the Packers to a 14-10 deficit, but then the Huskies began to pull away.

"We improved in every game against a great team," Schneider said. "Playing a tough schedule this season and getting into section matches with teams like Owatonna will only make us better in the future."

Junior middle hitter Sigin Ojulu is one of the younger players who gave the Packers a lift in the third game. Ojulu’s jumping ability got her block at the net and tied the game at 1-1. She then fired in a service winner and the Packers had the lead. The lead increased on a kill by Katie Reed.

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The final game would be the closest of the night. The Packers kept it tight as Reed hit a three-point service run to tie the score at 11-11. Emily Ebeling then had a tip for the Huskies and turned the tide.

"It’s always a huge step to get past the first section match," Owatonna coach Rod Nakagaki said. "Austin made us work in the third game and that will prepare us for the next round at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester."

Although their season was rapidly drawing to a close, the Packers tried to hang on. Stundahl, playing in her final match for the Packers got a kill on a sideout to make it 17-13. But the Packers couldn’t close the gap.

The Huskies (21-6) went on a seven-point run to put it away. Ojulu had a block to score the final Austin point of the match and the season was over.

"It was a remarkable season and we finished with a winning record," Schneider concluded. "I’m proud of the effort given by the seniors, they really helped rebuild our program. Now, we have five starters coming back and a lot of talented younger players coming up. We’re right where want to be for next season."

Austin finished the volleyball season with a 15-14 overall record.

SECTION 1AAA

Owatonna 3, Austin 0

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Austin 11 13 14

Owatonna 25 25 25

Austin: Rebekah Aase 4 kills, 1 block; Katie Reed 2 kills, 3 serve receive, 1 service ace; Nichelle Grage 4 digs, 1 set assist; Ellen Ettinger 4 digs, 4 set assists; Jolene Brody 5 digs; Emma Arboe 7 digs, 6 serve receives..

Owatonna: Jordan Spatenka 10 kills, 3 blocks; Alli Rice 8 kills, 6 ace serves; Emily Ebeling 7 kills, 3 blocks; Danielle Haley 24 set assists, 6 aces; Greta Mattison 4 kills, 4 aces; Jenna Yentsch 4 kills, 3 blocks.

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