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Energetic Cavaliers turn back Groton

Aberdeen Roncalli players celebrate winning game two against Groton Area during Friday night’s match at the Roncalli High School gym. From the left are Ella Hanson, Jeci Ewart, Jaidyn Feickert, Olivia Hanson (10) and Maddie Huber, back right. Photo by John Davis taken 10/22/2021

Maybe it was the quest to get a home victory or perhaps it was facing a familiar foe, whatever the case, Aberdeen Roncalli came out focused and determined Friday night.

The Cavaliers used that energy to grab a 25-16, 26-24, 25-20 Northeast Conference volleyball win over Groton at the Roncalli Gym.

“We felt a little bit defeated after the last couple of games,” said Roncalli coach Mandy Smid. “The focus this last week has really been more on that mental side of things and how can we get that energy back and that confidence in ourselves and in our abilities. Definitely credit the girls and the energy that they brought tonight. They were excited and they were ready to go.”

Of course, having the rival Tigers from Groton in the building has a way of creating its own sort of buzz.

“The energy, the excitement, everything,” said Roncalli senior Olivia Hanson of facing the Tigers. “They’re walking in your gym, you know it’s going to be a good night.”

Roncalli controlled the first set before having to grind out the last two sets.

Groton forced extra points in the second set and led 20-19 in the third set, but couldn’t finish.

“We just couldn’t execute and end points,” said Groton coach Chelsea Hanson. “That’s where we really struggled.”

Groton Area’s Madeline Fliehs, left and Anna Fjeldheim, center, defend the net as Aberdeen Roncalli’s Ava Hanson, far right, reaches to hit the ball during Friday night’s match at the Roncalli High School gym. In the foreground for Roncalli is Ella Hanson (15) and Faith Danielson (14). Photo by John Davis taken 10/22/2021

The Cavaliers scored the final six points of the match to conclude the sweep.

Smid said it was a matter of sticking to the game plan.

“We just reminded them we’re going to do this together. We have to have that control,” Smid said. “We have to focus on the game plan that we set in front of us, which is coming together and finishing as a team.”

Ella Hanson had 16 kills and Jeci Ewart nine to lead the Roncalli attack. Of course at the hub of it all is Olivia Hanson who finished with 36 set assists.

Olivia Hanson said she tries to find the hot hand when determining where to go with the ball.

“I kind of tell them where it’s going and they have to get it in,” she said. “And if they don’t get it in, well then I’m going to somebody else.”

Hanson also isn’t afraid to sneak in a quick dump across the net to catch opponents off guard.

“Usually, I know when no one is in that position on the other side of the court,” Hanson said, “but sometimes I just let it fly and hope for a kill.”

Sydney Leicht had eight kills and Madeline Fliehs five kills, an ace and a block to lead Groton, 9-14 on the season.

In the end, the Tigers couldn’t slow down Roncalli when it mattered most.

“I thought that their underclassmen or some of their maybe more role players really stepped up tonight. We knew the Hansons were going to score points, we knew Jeci was going to score points, but I thought a couple of their other girls really stepped up and put the ball in play,” Coach Hanson said. “We were going to try to make it that the other girls didn’t beat us and they kind of all did. They had a really strong game. It would have been hard for us beat them even on a good night when they play like that.”

Roncalli, 12-8 on the year, closes out the regular season at Milbank on Tuesday before heading into the playoffs the following week.

“We’re really going to use this last opportunity to help tweak anything that we need to before heading into the post season,” Smid said.

Serving: Groton (Alyssa Thaler 9-9 1 ace, Madeline Fliehs 9-9 1 ace, Liz Fliehs 14-16); Aberdeen Roncalli 64-71 7 aces (Hayley Schmidt 20-20 4 aces).

Hitting: Groton (Sydney Leicht 27-34 8 kills, M. Fliehs 22-26 5 kills, Anna Fjeldheim 21-23 4 kills); Aberdeen Roncalli 103-127 40 kills (Ella Hanson 37-43 16 kills, Jeci Ewart 21-29 9 kills).

Setting: Groton (L. Fliehs 11); Aberdeen Roncalli 109-109 37 assists (Olivia Hanson 99-99 36 assists).

Digs: Groton (Leicht 15, Trista Keith 10, Thaler 9); Aberdeen Roncalli 105 (E. Hanson 25, Schmidt 22).

Blocks: Groton (M. Fliehs 1 solo, Aspen Johnson 4 assists, L. Fliehs 3 assists); Aberdeen Roncalli 4 assists (Jaidyn Feickert 2 assists).

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