BY ROB LAPLANTE
After three weeks of practice, the much awaited season opener came last Thursday and the St. Michael-Albertville volleyball team knocked off conference rival Rogers in three straight games.
It was the third consecutive year STMA has defeated its cross-town rivals and this season they did it in convincing fashion, 25-16, 25-19, 25-15.
Junior outside hitter Meagan Ghinter led the way with several key kills and senior captain Candice Yager had a strong effort playing in her first match as the libero.
“It felt great,” said Ghinter after the win. “It was a lot of work leading up to this and now that we’re finally here, it’s nice to show everyone that we’ve been working hard.”
After winning game one with ease, Rogers responded in game two by jumping to an early 10-4 advantage. STMA head coach Ryan Dehnel was forced to take a timeout. Shortly afterwards, the Knights responded by scoring seven of the next eight points, pulling within 11-10.
“I told the girls not to worry or get upset when things aren’t going our way,” Dehnel said. “We talked about settling down and executing and then we put a little bit of pressure on them and they made a few unforced errors and we capitalized.”
After four different lead changes in the second game, the Knights eventually prevailed 25-19. They finished the match with the 25-15 victory in game three.
The Knights were one of 32 teams participating at the 7th annual Minnesota Southwest Minnesota Challenge in Marshall, MN.
After starting the weekend Friday night on a positive note, winning a hard fought battle against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in three game 25-21, 12-25, 17-15, STMA quickly fell on hard times, losing its next four matches during weekend play.
After defeating T-M-B, later that day they lost in two games to Wayzata 25-20, 25-19.
The Knights struggled once again Saturday, failing to win a game in three consecutive matches. They lost to Owatonna in two games, 25-14 and 28-26. They lost the second match of the day in two games to LeSuer-Henderson and dropped the final match of the weekend to Fergus Falls 25-22, 28-26.
STMA continued its busy schedule with a home match Tuesday night against Monticello. Thursday at 7 p.m. they are at Big Lake. It will be its eighth match in seven days.
“The kids have done a really nice job of holding on to concentration in practice,” Dehnel said. “After all that time without seeing an opponent they were super excited to start play.”