NEW ULM - After tearing her ACL in May, Minnesota Valley Lutheran senior Mariah Schoof didn't imagine she'd get the chance to step onto the volleyball court at all this season.
With the Chargers celebrating Senior Night during Tuesday's non-conference match against New Ulm Cathedral, Schoof was shocked to hear that her name had been called as part of the Chargers' starting line-up.
Although the move was symbolic and Schoof didn't get to see any live action in the match, it was a fitting start to what ended up being a memorable night for the MVL seniors as their team earned a 25-17, 25-16, 25-23 sweep of the Greyhounds.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm Cathedral’s Paige Pautzke (6) and Kristin Mohr (9) set up a block as Minnesota Valley Lutheran’s Carlie Maasz spikes the ball Tuesday at MVL.
"It was a complete surprise," Schoof said. "I normally get announced as a non-starter, and they didn't announce me and I just thought they forgot because I'm not on the roster. I didn't know what to do when they called my name, but it was definitely the highlight of the year so far."
Though Schoof hasn't been able to compete on the court this season alongside fellow seniors Martha Johnston, Carlie Maasz, Sarah Burk and Allison Collum, Chargers head coach Sara Gieseke complimented all the behind-the-scenes work that she has for the team.
"She has been doing just an awesome job in practices," Gieseke said. "She has such a great attitude, and for somebody that hasn't been able to play at all, she's just been very positive all year long. The least we could do was is get her in for a home game."
The Chargers got off to a strong start in the first set, breaking a 10-10 tie with a 6-0 run and maintaining a lead of at least three points the rest of the way.
MVL's run was started by a kill from Burk and an ace serve by Mariah Stein, with Cathedral errors accounting for the other four points.
"Definitely my favorite part of the game is serving, I feel like it's one of my biggest strengths," said Stein, who had three aces in the match. "Whenever I get an ace it makes me really excited, it makes me want to do it again."
The home side never trailed in the second set, with an opening service error by Cathedral followed by an ace by Stein setting the tone for the set.
Consecutive kills by Kristin Mohr, Paige Pautzke and Lisa Helget cut a 7-3 MVL lead to 7-6, but the Greyhounds failed to launch a sustained threat. The set ended with an ace block by Burk bringing up set point, which Burk converted with a kill.
"We knew that [MVL] had the weapons, we knew what to expect, but honestly, we didn't play our game," Cathedral head coach Stef Dietz said. "We did not pass the ball well at all, therefore we could not get the ball to the setters, and that's basically what killed us. We couldn't get that momentum on our side."
The third set was closely contested throughout, with the Greyhounds rallying from 22-17 down to produce a dramatic finish to the match.
Helget began a 4-0 run by Cathedral with a kill, with the next three points won via kills by Mohr, Pautzke and Mohr again, respectively.
A Maasz kill gave MVL a 23-21 lead, and after a kill by Mohr, Maasz earned another kill to bring up match point. Helget delayed the end of the match with a kill, but Molly Maasz struck with a kill on the next point to end the match.
Carlie Maasz led MVL with 14 kills and also produced six digs, five blocks and an ace. The rest of the team's seniors also came up big, with Johnston earning team highs of 26 set assists and 10 digs, Collum contributing nine digs and an ace and Burk adding six kills, five digs and three aces.
Cathedral was led by Mohr (12 kills, two ace blocks), MacKinnon Ehlehnz (10-for-10 serving, two ace blocks), Helget (10 kills), Pautzke (28 set assists, six digs) and Karlee Pfaff (nine digs).
The Greyhounds (10-11) will travel to play Cedar Mountain/Comfrey on Thursday for a Tomahawk Conference match.
MVL (14-11-3) will have a break until traveling to play Cathedral for a rematch on Tuesday, this time in a conference match.
"I think they're definitely going to want revenge and to get back at us, and they're going to come with all they've got, but I think we can definitely do it and beat them again," Stein said. "We did it once, we can do it again."