Experienced Bluejays rally for five-set win

VOLLEYBALL: WEST POINT GACC DEF. WAHOO NEUMANN 18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 15-9

WAHOO, Neb. — When it comes to a fifth set in a tight match, experience can make all the difference.

So it went Tuesday night as West Point Guardian Angels Central Catholic defeated host Wahoo Neumann 18-25, 25-21, 22-25, 25-21, 15-9.

Central Catholic, ranked No. 1 in Class C-2, boosted its record to 11-1. The Cavaliers, ranked 10th in Class C-1, fell to 9-4.

With the match tied at two sets each, the Bluejays sprinted to a 9-1 advantage in the final set. Neumann cut its deficit to 13-8, but a Cavaliers serve went long before a kill by Breanne Kreikemeier ended it.

Kreikemeier is one of seven seniors on the Central Catholic roster. Neumann has one.

"I think that was the difference," Bluejays coach Kate Hagemann said. "We're playing with seniors and they're playing with sophomores."

Central Catholic had additional experience working for it. The Bluejays have been to the state tournament the past five years while the Cavaliers haven't been there since 2007.

Neumann also is playing without 6-foot-2 junior Haley Kabourek, who tore her ACL shortly before the season.

"Even though we lost, I still saw a lot of positives," Cavaliers coach Michelle Moser said. "We dug too big of a hole in that last set, but I was proud of the way we battled back."

Neumann got off to a solid start. It never trailed in the first set and closed it on Aspen Jansa's ace.

The Bluejays bounced back to win the second set with the help of Maddie Knobbe, who had five of her team-high 14 kills. She also had the final kill to knot the match at a set apiece.

Neumann held the upper hand throughout most of the third set and dug deep as match point neared. The Cavaliers broke a 21-21 tie by winning four of the next five points, capturing the set on a kill by Caitlin Makovicka.

Once again, the Bluejays fought back to tie the match. Kreikemeier and Knobbe each rattled off five kills in the fourth to force a fifth set.

The strong serving of Kreikemeier helped the Bluejays race to that 9-1 lead. A Neumann timeout in the middle of that run couldn't slow the momentum, and Central Catholic held on for the victory.

"We knew coming in that Neumann would be the best team we've faced," Hagemann said. "They've got multiple weapons and they had us on our heels."

Kreikemeier finished with 13 kills while Morgan Bracht added 12. Katie Steuter had seven kills while setter Kali Stratman chipped in 35 assists.

Freshman Kelsie Cada had a match-high 17 kills to pace the Cavaliers. Hannah Thiele added 13 kills, Jansa and Makovicka had seven each while Jessina Rada and Alyssa Rezac combined for 44 assists.

"They are consistent and they don't make mental errors," Moser said. "Our girls tried hard, but we just couldn't quite get it done."

Contact the writer: 402-444-1350, mike.patterson@owh.com twitter.com/MPattersonOWH

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