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Packers start fast, but can’t finish

By Scott A. Kolb

The Post-Bulletin

HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL

Holding on to a lead and closing out volleyball games continues to be a problem for the Austin Packers.

During all three games of Thursday night’s home match against Rochester John Marshall, the Austin girls held the early lead. The Packers played well at the net, and had a lot of exciting volleys, but they couldn’t finish with a win.

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The visiting John Marshall Rockets used the jump serving of Sam Sikkink and the net play of Jasmine Dittrich to beat the Packers. John Marshall won the Big Nine Conference match by scores of 25-22, 25-18, 25-16.

"We talk to the girls about converting on crucial points," Austin coach Darica Schneider said. "You can’t make errors when the game gets into the 20s. That’s what cost us late in those games."

In the opening game, the Packers jumped to a 5-3 lead after a service ace by Brooke Monson. Dittrich came back with a couple of kills and JM took a 10-7 lead. This game would then see-saw the rest of the way.

Rebekah Aase had a power spike to keep the Packers close, but then the Rockets began to pull away. Sikkink jump-served her team out to a 21-16 lead, before the Packers rallied. A kill by Aase and then a service ace from Jenny Ball reduced the deficit to three points.

The Rockets maintained that margin at 23-20 until Annie Erickson served the last Austin point-run of the game. An ace by Erickson and a kill by Monson brought the Packers to within a point, but they got no closer.

"Our kids have been playing great defensively, and I’m in the process of implementing a faster-tempo offense," JM coach Carolyn Bell said. "Sam helps us run that offense with her athleticism on the floor. We have a lot of good athletes grasping my style, and they got it going in the last two games."

Once again, the Packers started strong in the second game and held a 1-0 lead after a kill by Monson. It was later tied at 2-2, when Ellen Ettinger hit an ace and Lindsey Soshnik made a kill for the Packers. The Rockets rallied and the game would eventually be tied at 11-11.

At this juncture, the Packers began to make mistakes and the game slipped away. The Rockets scored eight straight points to take control. Erickson finally ended the run with a diving return for a kill, but the damage had been done.

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Erickson served the Packers out to a 2-1 lead in the third game, but the lead didn’t last long. Brianna Kolb came back with a pair of service aces and the Rockets were on top. The Packers rallied to tie a couple of different times, but they never got the lead back.

A four-point run by the Rockets broke a 12-all tie and the match would soon be over. Sikkink pounded a pair of aces as part of a five-point run to close out the third game. The loss left the Packers still winless in the conference.

"We dug the ball well and had great efforts from the girls, but you can’t give points away," Schneider said.

Statistically for the Packers, Monson led the way with 11 kills, 10 digs, 11 blocks, and an ace serve. Other statistics included: Ettinger 13 set assists; Jolene Brody 10 digs; Aase 8 kills; and Erickson 14 digs, 7 kills, ace serve.

Austin (1-16, 0-6 Big Nine) plays in the Rochester Century Invitational on Saturday at the National Volleyball Center.

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