Volleyball: A five-set thriller secures a conference crown for B-E
There was a time early this fall when the Brandon-Evansville volleyball team was sitting at 4-4 and wondering what direction it would go the rest of the season.
Since then, the Chargers haven’t lost. Their reward now is a Little Eight Conference championship all their own.
“We’re proud of them. They keep working every day,” B-E head coach Kelly Olson said. “The bench is involved, and they don’t cheat themselves out of the ability to do something great, and that goes for everybody.”
The Chargers (13-4, 9-0 LEC) needed a win to clinch that LEC title outright with second-place Underwood (14-9, 7-2 LEC) looking to grab a share of it on Tuesday. The night played out exactly how a battle of the top two teams in the league should as the match went five sets before Brandon-Evansville secured a 15-13 win in the fifth on a Bailey Schaefer kill.
“It’s really exciting,” junior Brittany Korkowski said of winning the league. “We haven’t done it in six years, so it’s good to win it and finally get it done.”
It was a match of momentum swings. The Chargers controlled the first set, 25-14, but Underwood took control through the next two and a half. The Rockets won 25-21 in the second and 25-16 in the third before holding a 15-13 lead in the fourth.
That’s when the Chargers regained the momentum. Six straight points were highlighted by a Korkowski kill that made it 19-15 in what was an eventual 25-21 win.
That set up a back-and-forth fifth set. With the Chargers leading 13-12, Madison Quinn, who tallied her 1,000th-career assist in the match, set a ball behind her that sailed a bit out of bounds. Korkowski never gave up as she went up for the kill and somehow snuck it inside the upright. A nearly-packed Evansville gym erupted as the ball hit the floor for a 14-12 lead.
“I just saw the ball and went to go get it,” Korkowski said. “It got us the momentum to finish the match.”
Korkowski almost finished it herself. Her next kill attempt went wide by a couple inches, but it only delayed the celebration. Quinn found Schaefer on the very next possession as she put down the kill to secure the win.
“We talked about just making sure we stayed the course,” Olson said. “Underwood had the momentum from pretty much the second set all the way through half of the fourth. We just said, ‘Keep siding out, keep playing and things will turn around.’ We got a little spark there, and we just took off.”
Since going 2-2 at the Browerville-Eagle Valley Tournament on Sept. 8, Brandon-Evansville has rattled off nine straight wins to climb up the LEC and section standings. The Chargers are now 12-2 against Section 6A opponents.
“This is one of the only teams I’ve had that has gotten progressively better and markedly so each week,” Olson said. “We still have quite a few things to work on. I was a little disappointed in our serve receive, and we’ll talk about that tomorrow. But they just made the plays.”
Schaefer, a sophomore, is one of the best players on the court every night, and she showed that again on Tuesday with 27 kills. She got some help from Korkowski, who finished with 11 kills, a few of them at big moments when the Chargers needed a point.
“She’s gotten a lot better throughout the year,” Olson said. “In the beginning of the year, she was a serviceable right side. She has decent hands, she’s good defensively, but tonight and probably the last three weeks, she’s really taken off and become part of the offense.”
It has helped make the Chargers a more complete team with a tournament in Marshall this Friday and matches against Wheaton-Herman-Norcross (11-6) and Ashby (3-15) left on the schedule. B-E went a long way toward clinching a top three seed in the south subsection of the tournament after beating Underwood for the second time this season.
That sets the Chargers up to be competitive in the playoffs, but Olson said they are not thinking that far ahead. They will enjoy the conference title and focus on performing well in Marshall before letting the chips fall where they fall at tournament time.
B-E 3, UNDERWOOD 2
(25-14, 21-25, 16-25, 25-21, 15-13)
B-E - Sara Jacobson - 4 aces, 2 assists, 8 digs; Kailee Klimek - 7 kills, 1 assist, 8 digs; Bailey Schaefer - 27 kills, 3 blocks, 6 digs; Brittany Korkowski - 11 kills, 1 assist, 3 digs; Mikenna Pattrin - 2 kills; Korrie Randt - 1 ace, 1 assist, 1 dig; Megan Lauthen - 1 block; Haddey Zastrow - 2 kills, 1 block; Madison Quinn - 5 aces, 4 kills, 44 assists, 1 dig