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Raider middle hitter Katrina Zenz (13) finds room at the net to spike the ball for a point in the first set of the Raiders' Big Rivers Conference volleyball match against Rice Lake last Tuesday at the high school gym. Bob Burrows photo

Volleyball improves as week goes on

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The Raider volleyball team got off to a slow start last week, dropping a 3-0 decision at home to Rice lake on Tuesday, but gradually improved and ended up finishing fifth at Saturday's Cretin-Derham Hall Tournament in St. Paul.

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Head coach Dennis Saathoff said the Raiders had more service reception errors than any match this year against Rice Lake, which slowed their offensive attack. Scores of the match were 23-25, 10-25, 16-25.

Stephanie Little and Katrina Zenz led the Raiders in kills and blocks while Anna Wilen and Becca Woitas put up almost identical numbers in assists and serves, with Wilen adding five additional defensive digs. Maddie Drewiske led the team in service receptions and digs.

By Saturday, Saathoff said the Raiders were playing their best volleyball in two weeks. After defeating South St. Paul, 20-25, 25-15, 19-17 in the opening round, Hudson lost to eventual tournament champion Lakeville South, 16-25, 17-25.

Saathoff said the team started slowly again in its opening match.

"Even though we won we did not play very inspired volleyball," he said. "We made a lot of unforced hitting errors early on, but we did not give up and we did play hard at the end when the match was on the line."

He said the team played much better in its loss to Lakeville South.

"This was actually a very good match for us," he said. "We played them tough, made some scoring runs against them, but they eventually overpowered us with their hitters. We committed far fewer hitting errors than we did the first match and we played with a lot more energy and intensity." 

Saathoff said the Raiders played well again in their next match against East Ridge, despite dropping a 21-25, 19-25 decision.

"This was the best match we had in blocking, but East Ridge converted on more out of system plays than we did," he said.

In the fifth place match against St. Agnes, the Raiders prevailed 25-19, 25-10.

"The first set we played a little sluggish coming off a lunch break, but once we started to click we finished very strong and St. Agnes didn't have any answers to our hitters," Saathoff said.

On the day, Zenz led the Raiders in hitting except in the St. Agnes match, when Drewiske led the team from her left side position. Little and Serena Schultz led the team in blocks with Mariah Hallen also stepping up against East Ridge.

In the four matches, the Raiders had four different girls step up and lead the team in service aces -- Hannah Wirth, Abby Francis, Anna Wilen, and Drewiske.

"Hannah Ross led our left side attack in the first match, but was slowed the rest of the day with a slight injury," Saathoff said. "Becca Woitas led the team in assists and had a very good defensive match against Lakeville South, digging several hard line shots by their best hitter."

Saathoff said Kirsten Vorvick was the team's "floater" for the day, playing out of position in most matches due to illness and injuries to the team and doing a good job in that role.

"Overall, as a team, we had a good day," the coach said. "We played against some tough competition and we never backed down. We played better than we have in the past two weeks, so hopefully we can carry that forward with us for the rest of our season."

The season continues at the Mora, Minn., Invitational this Saturday, Oct. 8, and at home against Chippewa Falls on Tuesday, Oct. 11, at 7:15 p.m.

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Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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