NEW ULM - Now it can again be said the Minnesota Valley Lutheran Chargers volleyball team's offense will Burk, but not break.
Monday night wasn't only the Chargers' first home match of the season, it also marked the return from injury of senior middle hitter Sarah Burk, who has been off the MVL athletic scene since last basketball season.
Burk made her presence known in more ways than one as the Chargers beat the winless Nicollet Raiders 25-16, 25-11, 23-25, 25-16.
"Today was Sarah's first full match," MVL coach Sara Gieseke said. "We needed her experience back on the court. Before, we had two juniors as starting middle hitters and one of them was injured last year. Sarah kept her composure and we're glad she's been cleared to play."
On the Nicollet side, the loss to graduation was evident, as the third set was its lone victory of the year so far.
"Obviously, we're rebuilding," Raiders coach Judy Radke said. "We've got to play better defense. When we get behind, we start to get tense. But we're getting better every match and that's a positive."
The Raiders were never really in the first set, committing 13 unforced errors that helped MVL off to a 1-0 start. A lone bright spot was the serving of libero Courtney Struss, who nailed three aces in a row after Nicollet was down 21-11, with Burk getting her first kill of the year earlier in the set to make it 5-1.
While the Chargers held the early lead in the second set, the Raiders did threaten to tie the game when MVL was up 9-8. But once the Chargers rattled off a 13-2 run, capped off with a trio of aces by Martha Johnston, it was two more unforced Nicollet errors that wrapped up the set.
The Raiders came out inspired in the third set, rolling to a 10-5 lead. The Chargers didn't go away, though, eventually taking a 16-14 lead from two more Johnston aces.
The score was tied four more times, the final time at 23-23, before a MVL error and a Katelyn Skrien kill won it for the Raiders. Nicollet hung in there in the fourth set, but after a 7-7 tie, the Chargers took control and ended the night with an ace by Mariah Stein.
For the 2-5-2 Chargers, Carlie Maasz led with 16 kills and 12 digs, while Burk had 10 kills and 13 digs. Johnston had 33 set assists, 12 digs and five aces. For the 0-3 Raiders, Struss had 47 digs, while Carissa Woller had 10 blocks.
MVL hosts Springfield Thursday night at 7 p.m., while Nicollet travels to take on Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial at 7:30 p.m. tonight.