Owatonna topples AHS in season-opening match

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 29, 2002

The Austin volleyball team slowly shook off the shakes and showed that it plans to compete in the Big Nine Conference.

Visiting Owatonna took the first two games of Austin's season-opening match Tuesday night, but the Packers came back to earn a win and prolong an eventual 3-1 loss to the Huskies.

Austin's nerves claimed the first two games, 15-2 and 15-7, before the Packers scored eight straight points in the third game for an 8-3 advantage. First-year coach Lisa Grunewald saw her players hustling all over the court in a 15-11 victory, but Owatonna sealed the match win, 15-3, in the fourth game.

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"I think we saw a lot of good things," Grunewald said after her coaching debut. "We saw some minor things that we're going to tweak.

"I'm really proud of them, they did an outstanding job for the first match of the year."

The Packers -- who start two seniors and four sophomores -- battled first-game jitters with only two regular starters from last season on the court. All-Conference pick Theresa Hirsch led Austin with 10 kills, and Lauren Royce contributed six kills and three digs.

"Everybody was nervous," Hirsch said. "We were kind of slow getting going. We need to look past the bad things and really work together hard as a team. I think as the season goes on we're going to get better and play better."

Austin's passing and serving set the stage for the first two losses. The Packers committed 11 service errors against five aces, and the passing was less than pinpoint.

Hirsch led the charge in the third game, getting two kills, two blocks and a service ace to end the game, 15-11. Austin sped to an 8-3 lead in the game before Owatonna (2-0) traveled the comeback trail to go up 11-9. Royce had three kills and a block assist in the game, and Laura Geffert got two blocks and a back-row kill to spur the Pack to 15.

Owatonna jumped to a 9-1 lead in the fourth game, but despite countering the attack Austin could not register points on the board. The Huskies scored the final six points to end the match.

"I loved our defense, there were bodies on the floor, there was effort everywhere," Grunewald said. "We held them on nine for a long time, we just couldn't score.

"Both Lauren and Theresa did a great job of leading the team. They've taken it upon themselves this season to lift this team above and beyond."

Jessica Plemel elevated Owatonna with 12 kills and three ace serves. Middle hitter Kristin Kaplan tallied eight kills, three blocks and two aces, and both Katie Boettcher and Jenna Ruzek had six kills.

Austin remains in Big Nine play with a trip to Mankato West Thursday night. The Packers go to the Rochester Century Invite Saturday starting at 9 a.m.

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at :mailto:sports@austindailyherald.com.