Packers go out with a flurry in playoff loss to Stewartville

Published 10:10 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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STEWARTVILLE – The No. 5 seeded Austin volleyball team finished its best season in a decade with a strong push against one of the more storied programs in southeast Minnesota, but No. 4 Stewartville ultimately prevailed outlasting the Packers by scores of 21-25, 25-17, 25-13, 27-25 in a Section 1AAA quarterfinal Wednesday night.

The Packers (12-15 overall) trailed 20-15 late in the final game, but they stormed back into the match behind some strong play from Kathryn Crouch, who served an ace and had a kill, as Austin tied the match at 25.

The Tigers (12-15 overall) finally closed out the match when Peyton Krause delivered a tip kill.

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The loss stung for Austin’s five seniors, but Aggie McKichan, who had five kills, was proud of how the team went out in the final game.

“I’m happy we played well. I’m disappointed with some parts of it, but at the end we played our best,” McKichan said. “Stewartville has a very good coaching staff and it was cool to battle with them.”

The Packers opened the night on a high note as they scored the first four points of the match and they led by as much as 15-9 in the first game. Stewartville regained control in the second game by jumping out to a 9-3 lead and it snapped an 8-8 tie with a five-point burst in the third game.

While the season is now over, Austin head coach Jeremy Struck recognizes this season as a big step forward for a program that has only produced four double-digit win seasons in the last 15 years.

“Our core group has done wonders to solidify what Austin volleyball wants to be and where we want to finish. It showed up in that fourth game where we fought and scratched. We’re almost there,” Struck said. “I told the girls as much as we are used to losing, we have Hall of Famers like (Stewartville head coach) John Dzubay shaking our hand and telling us that we’re doing really good stuff. That’s kudos to the kids and our coaching staff. I’m really proud of this season.”

While Austin’s seniors helped change the direction of the program this year, it will be on the underclassmen to keep the improvements coming. Freshman Quinn Osgood contributed four kills and four aces on Wednesday and sophomore Isabella Bolster added six kills.

“The seniors leaving is going to be really hard. They really lifted up the team and they made it so energetic and fun,” Osgood said. “It’s going to be so sad when they leave. When I first started playing with the high school team, they brought me in and they always taught me to never give up. When we grow up I hope we have that energy and we can compete like these seniors did.”

As younger players like Osgood take over the program in the future, McKichan has some solid advice for the future Packers.

“Try your hardest and don’t get down,” McKichan said. “If you lose it’s not the end of the world, just try your best always.”

Austin stats: Austin Stats: Isabella Bolster, 7 kills, 2 digs; Aggie McKichan, 5 kills, 12 digs; Quinn Osgood, 5 kills, 4 aces, 20 digs, Kathryn Crouch, 5 kills, 3 aces, 1 assist, 12 digs; Nora Sand, 3 kills, 1 block; Ava Denzer, 2 kills, 2 blocks; Alia Retterath, 12 assists, 1 ace, 12 digs; Haleigh Holman, 12 assists, 2 aces, 4 digs; Kristen Neilsen, 31 digs, 2 assist