All for one: Packers continue to build bond as hot start continues with a win over AL

Published 10:57 pm Thursday, September 14, 2023

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The Packers have the talent, they found the drive and now they have the belief.

Austin continued to build onto its best season in four years as it scored a three-game win over I-90 rival Albert Lea by scores of 25-23, 25-14, 25-16 in a frenzied atmosphere in Packer Gym Thursday.

The Packers (7-5 overall) trailed the final game 3-0 before freshman Quinn Osgood stepped to the serving line and produced a nine-point run that put her team up 10-3. Osgood’s defining run was preceded by a 10-point serving run by senior Kristen Nielsen that made it 13-3 in the second game.

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We just get along great from young to old on this team,” Nielsen said. “We’ve struggled with keeping our attitude up in the past, but we’ve had to become a team and keep going. We knew we were better than last year and coach (Jeremy Struck) keeps on telling us that he hasn’t seen an Austin crew like this. It’s awesome and I can’t believe I’m a part of it.”

Struck said the Packers’ biggest strength is their versatility as the team has multiple hitters that can get the job done.

“They’re buying into all of the things that I see in them,” Struck said. “They’re potential is huge. This is a well rounded team. We’re balanced and we’ll keep coming at you.”

Austin trailed 3-1 early in the first game, but senior Aggie McKichan put down a couple of early kills as she kickstarted Austin to a 9-6 lead. The Tigers (1-4 overall) eventually tied it up at 20 and freshman Nora Sand spiked down a point to put the Packers up 23-20.

McKichan said the win was as big a victory as she’s been a part of as she’s seen the Packer volleyball program reach new heights this fall.

It’s a huge rivalry (with AL) and this one means a lot to the team. It really builds up our momentum,” McKichan said. “It’s a lot different this year. Everyone’s so much happier, when last year there was a lot of not getting along. It feels a lot better to win. We want to keep on winning and keep growing the program.”

The Packers have already won more matches this season than they had in the previous three seasons combined as they won four matches last year, one match in 2021 and zero matches during the COVID shortened year in 2020.

The last time the Packers won a Big Nine match was last season, when they topped Mankato East on Aug. 26.

The last time the Packers had double digit wins, was in 2019 when the team finished 11-16 overall.

Austin’s increased success was evident in the crowd on Thursday as both schools had strong student sections.

“When I first started here, there were two or three student fans and now we have a rowdy, almost obnoxious group of fans in the stands,” Struck said. “That’s huge for Austin volleyball and it’s fun to see that we can create an environment like basketball does.”

Austin stats: Kathryn Crouch, 7 kills, 8 digs, 2 assists, 1 ace; Aggie McKichan, 6 kills, 3 digs, 2 blocks; Ava Denazer, 5 kills; Isabella Bolster, 4 kills, 3 digs, 2 aces, 4 blocks; Alia Retterath, 4 kills, 3 digs, 15 assists; Nora Sand, 3 kills, 1 dig, 1 block; Quinn Osgood, 2 kills, 1 assist, 8 digs, 3 aces; Haleigh Holman, 1 kill, 1 dig, 1 ace, 12 assists; Kristen Neilsen, 2 assists, 4 aces, 15 digs