Staying on the offensive

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

That's what Schaller-Crestland, Gehlen hope to establish in region title game

Staying on the offensive will be key for the Schaller-Crestland volleyball team in its region final match vs. LeMars Gehlen tonight in Ida Grove, according to long-time Wildcat coach Marilyn Murra.

"We want to be aggressive and take some chances if we have to," she said. "We want to dictate the action and the tempo to them and not be caught standing around waiting for their hits."

In short, Murra hopes her team plays just like it did last week in a surprising 3-0 sweep of third-ranked Wall-Lake View Auburn on the latter's home floor.

"Things went like clockwork that night, and we want to do the same thing Tuesday," Murra said. "It was fun to watch."

The Wildcats enter the match with a 25-3 mark and are in their second consecutive region final. Tonight's winner goes on to play this weekend at the state volleyball tournament in Cedar Rapids.

Last season, the Wildcats suffered a 3-1 loss to Galva-Holstein in the region finals.

Meanwhile, LeMars Gehlen enters Tuesday night's game with a 24-13 mark, according to coach Donna Ruhland. Gehlen's three tournament victims have been a 3-0 sweep of Woodbury, a 3-2 win over Galva-Holstein and a 3-1 win over Woodland.

Ruhland added that her team has retooled in 2004 with a group of talented seniors after losing five senior starters in 2003.

"We've had an up-and-down season, kind of a roller coaster ride," Ruhland said Monday morning. "It took a while for us to get our rotation set but in tournaments, we've hit our stride and are playing our best volleyball of the season."

The LeMars coach added that her team runs a fast-paced offense that is senior-dominated.

"We basically have a nine-player rotation," she said. "And eight of those nine girls are seniors. The experience helps a lot."

Gehlen is led by senior outside hitter Katie Kolbeck, a 5-foot-9 player who averages 2.8 kills per game and has a .306 attack percentage.

But the Jays are balanced. Five-foot-ten outside hitter Melissa Langel averages two kills per game and 5-10 middle hitter Leah Kluemper leads Gehlen in blocks with 2.5 per game and adds two kills per game.

Ruhland is also enthusiastic about senior setter Jill Vonnahme, who averages 6.4 set assists per game. Both Vonnahme and Kluemper were first team all-conference picks this season, with Kluemper being a unanimous selection.

Ruhland says she has more concern about how her own team performs and won't worry about what Schaller-Crestland does.

"Our ultimate goal is to play our type of game and if we stay focused, we should be OK," she said.

Murra, meanwhile, has some balance on her team as well. Senior middle blocker Katie Hansen leads the Wildcats in offense with 267 kills thus far, an average of 3.29 kills per game. She also averages one block per contest.

Outside hitter Ayla Ringgenberg has 176 kills in 2004, an average of 2.27 ace hits per game. Kelli Carstensen averages 2.01 kills per game with a total of 151 on the season.

Three keys to Schaller-Crestland's success, besides the balanced offense, have been junior setter Kayla Bihrer, and the team's serving and defense.

Bihrer might be the best and most athletic setter in the area and averages 8.07 set assists per game. She also serves 94 percent, having hit on 360 of 382 serves.

Five Wildcat players average at least two digs per game, led by Ringgenberg with 218 total digs for an average of 2.62 per game.

Carstensen has 199 digs this season and averages 2.58 digs per game while Bihrer averages 2.16 digs per game.

Murra, however, knows her team is in for a tough match against LeMars Gehlen.

"They have a very aggressive offense and are very hard servers," she said. "They are very good defensively and don't let much hit the floor.

"In a lot of ways, these are two similar teams so we're expecting a close match."

Tonight's match starts at 7 p.m. at Battle Creek-Ida Grove High School gym.

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