Prep volleyball: Northwestern outlasts Superior in thriller
The Spartans rallied from two games down to force a fifth in their 2022 home opener.
SUPERIOR — Northwestern’s Kayla Paulsen had 17 kills and 18 digs in a 3-2 (25-19, 25-19, 17-25, 17-25, 15-12) win over Superior Tuesday.
The Tigers dominated play early, building a lead with Paulsen working with fellow senior Brynn Hessel to keep the Spartans off balance and forcing them into mistakes.
Northwestern won the first two sets pretty easily, but after building a small lead in the third set, Superior started to push the ball away from the net and force the Tigers to attack from further back.
“I told them to adjust their sets and hit a little bit lower, so they were hitting off the net and shorter, away from the blockers,” Superior coach Brenda Pluntz said.
The Spartans were able to take the third and fourth sets and force a deciding fifth by keeping Hessel, who had three blocks in the match, away from the net.
“They were pushing Brynn around with the ball and just tired her out,” Northwestern coach Charlie Hessel said. “She wasn’t getting great touches in the back row — she was getting the ball up, but not great touches, so then our offense was off. I think their plan of attack was to make Brynn run around in the back row because you really don’t have full rotation middles very often.”
Hessel finished with 12 kills and 13 digs to go with the three blocks.
In the fifth set, the Tigers started to settle down a little and jumped out to a 10-3 lead and cruised to the five-set win.
Paulsen is going to be key for Northwestern this season at the outside hitter position, according to coach Hessel.
“If we’re out of our system, we have to be able to get the ball outside to Kayla,” he said. “Throughout her club season, she really improved and came in this fall looking really solid. She’s a threat anywhere on the court, which is what we need. Sometimes we were 13, 14 feet off the net and we just get it up in the middle back and then she takes a solid swing and had some kills that way.”
While Pluntz was disappointed her team didn’t pull off the comeback win, she was impressed with the resiliency of her team, that returns just three returners from 2021. Junior Savanna Hering finished with 16 kills and Carli Lohman finished with 30 set assists.
“We’re trying to just trying to find the right connection of players,” Pluntz said. “I think they can grow from here and learn from this. They’re inexperienced varsity players, so they’re learning and they’re getting better each game.”
Northwestern will next host Rice Lake at 7 p.m. Sept. 13.
Superior is next scheduled to play at a tournament in Ashland Sept. 3.