It’s not often a freshman steals the show, but Stanton’s Jessie Brandl did just that Tuesday night.
Brandl’s 22 kill, 3 ace serve performance sparked the Mustangs to a 20-25, 25-19, 25-17, 25-21 win over Lutheran High Northeast in the Class C2-5 subdistrict championship at Norfolk Catholic.
With the win, Stanton advances to the C2-3 district championship against Shelby-Rising City to be played at Columbus Lakeview on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Having lost just 11 of 72 sets this season, Stanton was in unfamiliar territory when Lutheran High Northeast won the opening set.
“That first set we were a little tentative. We need to play fearless, and we were playing like we didn’t want to make mistakes. They just need to play through that,” Stanton coach Tracy Kuester-Burtwistle said. “But give Lutheran High Northeast credit. They were digging shots we normally get down.”
It didn’t phase Brandl or her teammates.
“After the first set, coach said we needed to play hard, get stuff going and get motivated,” Brandl said.
Tied at 15 in the second set, the 5-foot-7 sparkplug served eight-straight points as the Mustangs went on to even the match.
“We just couldn’t break her serve and began making a lot of hitting errors,” Lutheran High Northeast coach Kathy Gebhardt said.
Stanton used an early 8-1 run in the third set to lead 12-5. The Eagles got no closer than four points the rest of the set.
“They began changing up their shots a little bit,” Gebhardt said. “We kind of adjust our defense, but they’re a very good team.”
Leading 10-8 in the fourth set, Brandl mishit a kill attempt, landing awkwardly on her right ankle. She stayed in the match and finished strong.
Tied at 17, Brandl registered three kills during a 5-0 run that had the Mustangs on the brink of victory.
“My teammates just said you got this, you got this, and I just kept going and pulled it off,” Brandl said.
Stanton improved to 31-2 on the season.
“Our defense is amazing, out hitters are amazing, our setters are amazing, our coaches are amazing and our bench is amazing,” Brandl gushed following the game.”
Her coach added another category.
“I thought we served very well tonight. In four sets, I can remember only a handful we missed,” Kuester-Burwistle said. “This team is mentally sound. We’ve come back before. The girls know if they take it one point at a time they’re never out of a set.”
As for the Eagles, their season ends with a 20-14 record.
“We struggled with key injuries early on, but once we got everyone back healthy started playing better. I think we were 13-13 two weeks into October and then had a good stretch were we went 7-0,” Gebhardt said. “This team kept learning to compete and pushing to compete hard. I thought we could do some things better tonight, but you always can.”
Senior Trystin Baker led the Eagles with 12 kills.
“We lose seven seniors which is a big chunk of a team,” Gebhardt said. “But we have some young kids ready to work hard and step in we’ll have to see what happens.”