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Packers drop season opener to Cougars

The Austin volleyball team came out on the upswing against Mankato East, but weren’t able to keep it up a sweep at the hands of the Cougars 3-0 (25-19, 25-12, 25-7) in a season opening match in Packer Gym Friday.

Kate Holtz served an ace to bring Austin within 17-16 in the first game and Austin tied things up at 17-17 before the Cougars scored six straight points to run away with it. Austin led 3-1 early in the second game and it was tied 2-2 early in the third game.

“I can tell it’s a different vibe,” said Austin head coach Jeremy Struck. “This is a different Austin team than what I coached against. The environment is different and we’re hoping for some good things this season.”

Senior hitter Joy Deng showed a burst around the net for the Packers (0-1 overall, 0-1 Big Nine).She was active throughout the night with four kills. Deng is hoping to make a much bigger impact this season after not playing a lot as a junior.

“I was too much in my head before and the people that support me were just telling me that I got it. I think right now, I’ve really got the hang of it,” Deng said. “We just need to know how to not get in our heads. Once we get going as a team, we’ll be good.”

The Packers had to play most of the night without junior hitter Peyton Manahan, who had to leave the match with an injury. Struck is hoping she will be back in the lineup soon.

“The wind kind of went out of our sails when one of our top players went down and that was a bit to recover,” Struck said. “I thought the girls played well for parts. It’s just that consistency where we have to be fundamentally correct. We just have to stay calm and collected, and move on.”

Austin stats: Thowl Othow, 4 kills 1 block; Joy Deng, 4 kills; Chloe Jenkins, 8 assists, 2 kills, 1 block; Nevaeh Borg, 8 digs, 1 ace