A pivotal second set was the key to Southwest Christian’s 25-21, 25-23, 25-21 sweep of Minnesota River Conference rival Mayer Lutheran in front of a nearly full house at Mayer Lutheran High School on Thursday evening.
“We knew they were going to be a formidable opponent,” said Southwest Christian coach Greg Sayuk. “We knew we were going to have to play well and thankfully we did.”
Coming into the contest, Mayer Lutheran had won eight of the last 11 meetings between the league rivals, including a five-set win on the Stars’ home court last season.
“The [match] last year was really competitive,” said Stars’ senior outside hitter Madeleine Lemkuil. “We worked on a lot of stuff in practice to better ourselves and we put ourselves in good position in the conference because of it.”
The Stars (16-6, 6-1) maintained control early, holding a three-to-five-point lead throughout the first-set victory over the Crusaders, who are ranked No. 1 in the Class 1A coaches’ poll, but winning the second set proved a tougher task for the No. 6-2A Stars. An 11-6 lead at the first timeout of the set turned into a four-point deficit as the Crusaders (19-2, 5-1) rode a renewed and energized bench and crowd to an 18-14 lead.
Southwest Christian, ranked No. 6 in the Class 2A coaches’ poll, took an early lead and never relinquished it, handing No. 1-1A Mayer Lutheran a 25-21, 25-23, 25-21 straight-set loss on Thursday evening at Mayer Lutheran High School.
The Stars (16-6, 6-1), led by senior outside hitter Madeleine Lemkuil’s 12 kills and sophomore outside hitter Estelle Haugen’s 13 kills, put themselves in good position to challenge for the top spot in the Minnesota River Conference standings as they’ve been in a three-way race down the stretch with the Crusaders (19-2, 5-1) and No. 7-2A Belle Plaine, which also has one league loss.
Senior middle hitter Olivia Tjernagel, with 10 kills, and sophomore outside hitter Lilly Wachholz’s 12 kills, kept Mayer Lutheran competitive in each set but the Crusaders could never quite come up with a knockout blow.
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