Packers end Big Nine losing skid

Published 11:01 pm Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Austin sophomore Avery Thompson has put forth a lot of blood, sweat and tears for the Austin volleyball team lately, and she finally found the feeling of pure euphoria when she spiked down consecutive kills to give the Packers a four-game win over Mankato East in Packer Gym Tuesday. It was Austin’s first Big Nine volleyball win since the 2011 season, when Austin beat Albert Lea.

Thompson finished with nine kills and four blocks as the Packers came back from a 15-10 hole in the fourth game to win the match by scores of 25-16, 18-25, 25-12, 25-20.

Austin’s Jordyn McCormack hits during game two against Mankato East Tuesday night in Packer Gym. Eric Johnson/

Thompson’s long hours in practice over the last few weeks suddenly seem worth it.

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“We’ve been practicing so many pressure situations that we’d go home crying because we’d be so frustrated. It’s obviously paid off, because now we can finish,” Thompson said. “Tonight we were all happy with each other and we kept working together as a team. This is the most fun team ever.”

Austin junior setter Jenna Braaten had 23 set assists and three kills in the win. She said she could see that Thompson was getting a little off her game as Austin trailed early in the fourth and final game. Braaten stepped in and set things right.

“[Avery] was getting so frustrated and she kept getting in her own head,” Braaten said. “I told her to get focused and that she was one of our best hitters. In that last set she had like six kills. That was the biggest reason we won because she got out of that slump.”

Austin’s Erica Lundberg reaches up for a hit against Mankato East in game three Tuesday night in Packer Gym. Eric Johnson/

Austin (3-17 overall, 1-5 Big Nine) had lost to the Cougars (3-18 overall, 0-7 Big Nine) in a tournament in Rochester on Saturday, but they came out strong Tuesday as they jumped out to a 15-9 lead in the first game and they led 20-5 in the third game.

For Austin head coach Cindy Owen, the Big Nine win was a long time coming. She was glad to see her team handle adversity against East and now she’s glad to have the long conference losing streak in the rear view mirror.

“I told them that this is the time to shine. We’ve been working on these situations and it was time to put it into action,” Owen said. “It’s October, it’s a new month and we hadn’t been home for a match in three weeks. Everybody bought into it and it was a total team effort. They knew the task at hand was to get a W tonight.”

Austin’s Lauryn Petersen hits from the right side in game three against Mankato East Tuesday night in Packer Gym. Eric Johnson/

Thompson gave the Packers a lift at the net and so did sophomore Jordyn McCormack as she had eight kills, seven digs and three blocks.

“[Avery and Jordyn] are great. They work super hard and they take direction very well,” Owen said. “They really try to improve every single day. Ellie Tupy did a great job tonight and that whole sophomore class is solid. I also have some great leaders in Lauryn Bell, Teddi Eisenberg, Lauren Petersen and Caitlin Kaercher.”

Austin libero Lauryn Bell leans forward for a dig in game two against Mankato East Tuesday night in Packer Gym. Eric Johnson/

Austin stats: Jenna Braaten, 3 kills, 23 set assists, 2 digs, 15 points serving; Lauryn Bell, 13 digs, 7 points serving; Jordyn McCormack, 8 kills, 7 digs, 3 blocks 6 points serving; Avery Thompson, 9 kills, 4 blocks, 5 points serving; Teddi Eisenberg, 4 kills, 8 digs, 4 blocks, 5 points serving; Lauryn Petersen, 5 kills, 4 blocks, 1 dig, 2 points serving; Caitlin Kaercher, 4 set assists, 2 points serving; Erica Lundberg, 4 kills, 2 blocks; Ellie Tupy, 1 set assist

Austin’s Teddi Eisenberg hits in game three against Mankato East Tuesday night in Packer Gym. Eric Johnson/