The Lourdes volleyball team saw itself in an unfamiliar spot Tuesday trailing 1-0 after the first set to Markesan.
A smile from Laura Chier and a few nice serves from Sam Jaeke seemed to do the trick.
The Knights got strong serves from Jaeke in the second set and Chier helped energize the team as they rallied for a 3-1 win (21-25, 25-16, 28-26, 25-20) over the Hornets in a Trailways-North Conference game played in Oshkosh.
Losing the first set 25-21, and finding themselves down 10-4 early in the second, the Knights desperately needed a deep breath to help settle the nerves.
Then Jaeke came to the rescue. The senior helped Lourdes go on an 8-0 run, which gave them a 12-10 lead, using a great run of serves.
Lourdes (6-2, 1-0 Trailways-North) went on another big run – 10-0 – late in the set to finish Markesan off to win 25-16 to even the match. Lourdes ended the match on a 21-6 run.
“We talked in the locker room about what that turning point was when we were able to start playing more confident with more energy,” Lourdes head coach Jon Ellmann said. “Everyone stated that a smile by Laura Chier and a heavy arm behind the service line by Sam powered the team and from that point, it really lightened the load.”
The Knights used that momentum and confidence to take a huge third set, as Jaeke ended the set with a powerful kill to give the Knights a 28-26 win. Then in the fourth, Lourdes was able to finish Markesan off with no trouble.
In the first set, Lourdes had a 19-18 lead but the Hornets went on a 4-0 run to take the lead and eventually the first set. Ellmann said his team was lucky to sneak out with a four-set win, because the Hornets played much better statistically.
“They came out super energized, their serve pass game was better than ours and our goal is to pass higher than a 2.0 in terms of passer rating and have a plus-minus in ace to error and we didn’t do either of those,” Ellmann said. “So yeah to snake out with a four set win was statistically fantastic.”
While Markesan used strong serving to win the first set, Lourdes used even stronger serves to win the second.
“I thought that in the beginning we were making our own mistakes and it was nothing they were really doing and then toward the end of the first set we started clicking, but it was too late,” Lourdes’ Ali Jaber said. “The second set we started connecting and talking and got our stuff together.”
“Nerves had a lot to do with the first game, we were really nervous coming out,” said Chier, who finished with 17 kills, 16 digs and four blocks. “Our warmups showed how nervous we were. Sam Jaeke’s serves started to help us and that was a big turning point for us in the second game.”
The third set might have been the most crucial one for the Knights. Lourdes had a 22-18 lead, but Markesan slowly started to trim the lead. The Knights then had multiple chances to close the game, but couldn’t.
Finally, Chier and Jaeke had back-to-back kills to give the Knights a 2-1 advantage.
“That was way more exciting than it should have been,” Ellmann said. “We would get the set point and get an opportunity, then an error. Get another opportunity, then hit it out of bounds.”
Winning that third match gave motivation for the Knights to close it out.
“It was nice to have that safety net but we realized we needed to work harder to actually win the match,” Jaber said.
Jaeke ended up with 20 kills, 11 assists and seven aces for Lourdes, Mollie Bartlett had 23 assists and three aces, Maggie Scharf had 11 digs, Vanessa Buyarski had six blocks while Ellie DeGroot had four blocks.
Tuesday was the first time in two years that Lourdes lost a conference set in a regular season game. The last time the Knights lost a set to a conference opponent was in the Trailways-North Conference Tournament last year, which came to Markesan.
Lourdes def. Markesan, 21-25, 25-16, 28-26, 25-20
Stat Leaders: Lourdes — Kills: Sam Jaeke 20, Laura Chier 17. Assists: Mollie Bartlett 23, Jaeke 11. Aces: Jaeke 7, Bartlett 3. Digs: Chier 16, Maggie Scharf 11. Blocks: Vanessa Buyarski 6, Ellie DeGroot 4, Chier 4.
Alex Wolf: (920) 426-6661; firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @Wolfa07