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Volleyball gears up for BRC Tourney

Sophomore Stephanie Little prepares to deliver a kill after a set from Megan Kelly (3) in the first game of the Raiders' 3-0 loss to Chippewa Falls last Tuesday. Bob Burrows photo

The Raider volleyball team will look to get healthy and back on the winning track at the Big Rivers Conference Volleyball Tournament Saturday, Oct. 17 in River Falls.

The Raiders were swept by Chippewa Falls in their final conference dual match of the season last Tuesday before taking sixth at the 12-team Mora, Minn. Invitational Saturday with a depleted roster due to illness.

Last Tuesday's loss to the Cardinals leaves the Raiders with a BRC mark of 3-3 heading into Saturday's tournament. The Raiders lost in three sets, 17-25, 18-25, 22-25.

"With the rest of the conference still playing this week, it looks like we are likely to finish about fourth," head coach Dennis Saathoff said. "We really struggled with energy in the match, and great defense played by Chippewa negated most of our kill attempts."

Jamie Lindstrom and Kristen Briggs had the most success for the Raiders at the net, with Lindstrom recording seven of the team's 16 kills. Amber Saathoff had 10 of the Raiders' 15 set assists and three of their nine service aces while Elizabeth Gagliardi led the team in digs and Stephanie Little was tops in blocks. Kirsten Iverson added one service ace and one defensive dig.

Saturday at Mora, a shorthanded Raider team dropped their opening match in round robin play, 27-25, 17-25, 10-15, to North Branch.

"We were our own biggest problem in this match by making many service errors and unforced hitting errors," Saathoff said.

Hudson bounced back to defeat Princeton, 25-23, and won their first match in the playoff bracket, 23-25, 25-15, 15-7 over Pillager. They then lost the fifth place match to Carlton, 17-25, 11-25.

"With our reduced ranks, we ended up with some girls playing in spots that they normally would not have to play in," Saathoff said. "It took some time in the round robin for them to start getting comfortable with this, and then they played quite well in the first round of playoffs."

Saathoff said Megan Kelly, the only Raider setter available for the tournament, did a nice job of feeding middle hitters Stephanie Little and Briggs.

"We scored a lot of points as the blockers were not quick enough to counteract our attack," he said. "In the second and third sets, Jamie Lindstrom also heated up on the outside for quite a few kills of her own."

Saathoff said Gagliardi played solid defense and contributed several service aces.

"In the last match, it looked like the long day without much rest took its toll on the team," he said.

Saturday's BRC Tournament gets underway at 10 a.m. at River Falls High School. WIAA regional play begins Thursday, Oct. 22.

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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