By Jeremy Behnke
Journal Sports Editor
NEW ULM - For the New Ulm volleyball team, getting leads and keeping pace with Blue Earth Area wasn't a problem, at least early on in the match.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Courtney Lang (13) blocks a spike attempts as teammate Katie Forst looks on during the Eagles’ match against Blue Earth Area Thursday at NUHS.
However, keeping those leads late and putting the Bucs away was once again the thorn in the side for the Eagles, who dropped a 25-22, 25-20, 25-15 South Central Conference volleyball match with the Buccaneers Thursday.
The Eagles held leads early in both the first and second sets, but they were unable to finish the deal.
"Our ball control, for the first two sets, for a majority of the time was very good," New Ulm coach Chris Otto said. "We would grab a lead and kind of give it away in one rotation, and then grab a lead again. But we've struggled with finishing all season long, and finishing, it's a mental part of the game and that's really why we're struggling.
"Nothing different is occurring on the opponent's side of the net, we're just not going after it the same way as we did the entire set."
The Eagles led 6-3 in the first set after Briana Sieve served five straight points for the Eagles, but the Bucs crawled back and took a 7-6 lead.
New Ulm re-gained the lead at 10-7 on a block by Ellie Schneider, but things slowly fell apart for the Eagles after that. Kills by Krista Hassing and Whitney Pirsig and a tip by Hassig gave the Bucs a 21-16 lead, prompting a timeout by the Eagles.
After the stoppage, the Bucs fought off the Eagles for the first-set victory.
New Ulm held a 6-2 lead in the second set and eventually led 9-4 on Sarah Nelsen's block. After an Eagles ace serve made it 13-6, the Bucs eventually took a 14-13 lead thanks to some strong play at the net and some New Ulm hitting errors.
After the Eagles gave up the eight-point swing, they re-grouped and went ahead 17-14. But an ace serve by Janessa Jahnke cut the lead to 17-16 and the Bucs finally took a 20-19 on a pair of aces by Monica Krieger.
The Bucs finished the second set strong, taking five of the next six points to win 25-20.
The Eagles didn't appear to have the focus in the third set and it showed. They trailed 5-2 early on in the set and 19-11 after a hitting error. BEA cruised to the sweep after a New Ulm hitting error ended the match.
Otto said it's important for the Eagles to stay focused throughout the set with playoffs coming up in a few weeks.
"They just need to know that every point within a set is just as important as another," Otto said. "We have to play all the way to the end, whether we have the lead or whether we're behind, we have to play hard all the way to the end."
For New Ulm, Katie Forst had five kills and Bree Friedman had 14 set assists and 10 digs. Sieve finished the match 16-for-16 serving with two aces and 10 digs.
For the Bucs (16-6, 7-1 in SCC), Krieger had 26 set assists and 11 service points and Ashton Hendricksen had 11 digs. Hassing finished with 22 kills and six digs and Janessa Jahnke had nine kills, six digs and four blocks. Audrey McDonald had 11 service points for the Bucs.
The Eagles (1-18) are at Jackson County Central on Tuesday while the Bucs host Fairmont Tuesday.