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Roncalli quick attack fuels win over Britton-Hecla

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Ava Hanson, center, hits the ball as Britton-Hecla’s RaeAnn Hagenson, left, defends the net during Thursday night’s match at the Roncalli gym. Looking on for the Cavaliers are McKenna O’Keefe, far right and Ella Hanson, back center. Photo by John Davis taken 10/6/2022

Aberdeen Roncalli played with pace, power and pin-point accuracy to sweep past Britton-Hecla Thursday night at Roncalli Gym.

The Cavaliers kept the visitors scrambling the entire match on the way to a 25-15, 25-13, 25-12 Northeast Conference volleyball victory.

“Our front row really trusted our back row tonight. I thought that made a really big difference,” said Roncalli coach Mandy Smid. “Our hitters were just getting off of the net and trusting that our back row was going to get there and put the ball in play for them to be ready to have a strong attack.”

As a result, the Cavaliers were able to pressure the Braves at ever turn and set the tone in all three sets. While Britton-Hecla did its best slow down the Roncalli attack, they were never able to maintain a consistent rhythm as they were busy chasing down balls for a good share of the match.

“They run a really fast offense. Like I was telling the girls, they did fight for every single point they had. We started off really well and stayed with them and then they just went on stretches that we couldn’t stop,” said Britton-Hecla coach Megan Ochsner. “We had really good rallies. Our girls were defending really well, we just couldn’t finish at the net. I kind of felt we were running everywhere just to keep that ball alive and our offense just couldn’t get going because they had us everywhere.”

Roncalli featured a balanced attack on offense. Ava Hanson had 11 kills, Ella Hanson eight, and McKenna O’Keefe six.

O’Keefe was able to used a variety of angles to find the open spots on the court.

“It’s all just from the sets,” O’Keefe said. “We get a good set up and I just attack it and hit the open spots.”

O’Keefe did not miss an attack in a dozen total attempts.

“She did have a really good attack. She mixed it up,” Smid said. “She went down the line. She went cross court. She went sharp cross court.”

O’Keefe also had a strong effort from the service line. The sophomore takes her cues from Smid as to where to serve the ball.

“It helps when our coach gives us numbers to serve to,” O’Keefe said. “We just like to hit the open spots and that’s where they fall and get an ace.”

While the Cavaliers were the front runner in each of the sets, Smid called a time out with the Cavaliers leading 11-7 in the final set. The squad responded with 10 consecutive points.

“I said ‘OK this is your opportunity. Are you going to learn something from this or are you just going to go through the motions and finish it?'” Smid said. “I thought that coming back out of that time out we had some girls diving for balls, playing some out and not just letting the game finish itself.”

Aberdeen Roncalli’s Jazmine Hart-Crissman, center and Jaidyn Feickert, right, defend the net as Britton-Hecla’s Emma Kraft, left, reaches to hit the ball during Thursday night’s match at the Roncalli gym. Photo by John Davis taken 10/6/2022

Sterling Brassfield had three kills and an ace serve to lead the Braves. Katee Freeman contributed 19 digs.

Ochsner saw some positives from her squad despite the setback.

“There’s lot of things we can build on. We had some good blocks up at the net there. We were stopping them,” Ochsner said. “Defensively, this was probably one of our best games that I’ve seen our girls play. Now, we just have to get into that rhythm after we defend that ball. We have to finish at the net with that.”

Roncalli improved to 8-6 on the season and the Cavaliers are gaining momentum heading down the home stretch.

“This season has gone by pretty fast,” O’Keefe said, “but we are pushing through the end and working as a team. It’s good.”

Roncalli has some challenging road contests ahead, the first one coming on Tuesday against Mobridge-Pollock. The Tigers have lost just twice on the season.

“Definitely a good gauge for where we’re at as we start thinking post season,” Smid said.

Serving: Britton-Hecla 36-42 4 aces (Jayden Bender 9-9 1 ace, Sterling Brassfield 6-7 1 ace, Tiyanna Schott 6-7 1 ace, Kaegan Fredrickson 4-4 1 ace); Aberdeen Roncalli 59-70 7 aces (Camryn Bain 12-12 2 aces, Faith Danielson 14-15 2 aces).

Hitting: Britton-Hecla 45-60 8 kills (Brassfield 10-16 3 kills, Alyssa James 9-11 2 kills); Aberdeen Roncalli 92-103 32 kills (Ava Hanson 17-18 11 kills, Ella Hanson 28-31 8 kills).

Setting: Britton-Hecla 51-51 6 assists (Addison Wade 39-39 4 assists, Heather Storbakken 12-12 2 assists); Aberdeen Roncalli 86-86 28 assists (Maddie Huber 54-54 18 assists, Danielson 32-32 10 assists).

Digs: Britton-Hecla 46 (Katee Freeman 19, Fredrickson 10); Aberdeen Roncalli 77 (Bain 27, E. Hanson 21).

Blocks: Britton-Hecla 6 assists (Emma Kraft 3 assists, Schott 3 assists); Aberdeen Roncalli 4 solo 4 assists (Jazmine Hart-Crissman 2 solo, Jaidyn Feickert 1 solo 1 assist, E. Hanson 1 solo 1 assist).

Records: Britton-Hecla 5-11; Aberdeen Roncalli 8-6.

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