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Lady Jays rally to beat Helias in volleyball

Jefferson City’s Becca Sturgess hits into a block by Helias’ Brittney Engelbrecht during Tuesday night’s match at Rackers Fieldhouse.

Jefferson City’s Becca Sturgess hits into a block by Helias’ Brittney Engelbrecht during Tuesday night’s match at Rackers Fieldhouse. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman.

As well as things went for the Helias volleyball team in the first game of Tuesday night’s crosstown showdown, that’s how well it went for Jefferson City after that.

The Lady Jays reversed the momentum seemingly at will after dropping the opening game, rallying for a 14-25, 25-17, 25-21 win at Rackers Fieldhouse.

For Helias coach David Harris, it was like one of those bad dreams you can’t wake up from.

“I told the girls after the first game, ‘It’s not going to be that easy this next game. They’re going to play better, we have to play better.’ And we didn’t,” he said.

Jefferson City coach Chris Meyer said her team just had to weather the storm in the early going.

“We knew going in this game was going to be very emotional, and unfortunately we took the negative part of the emotion in that first game,” she said.

Helias raced out to a 4-0 lead and eventually built it to 9-3, causing Jefferson City to burn a timeout.

The Lady Jays never got closer than five points the rest of the game, but the tide was soon to turn, thanks in large part to the play of Abbi McKnelly.

The returning all-stater did not have a single kill in the opening game, but would rack up a match-high 13 in the next two.

“When you have one of your best hitters not getting the swings she needs to get, we’re going to have a tough time with a defense like Helias,” Meyer said.

The Lady Jays also picked up their play at the net. Although credited for just three blocks in each of the next two games, they got touches on several Helias attacks to slow down the Lady Crusaders.

“Our blocking and our floor defense, we’ve got to have that,” Meyer said. “That is something we’re focusing on this season. We did not have it in the first game. We did better in the second game and for sure by the third game we were getting a lot more touches on the ball.”

The second game was tied nine times, the last at 15 when Helias’ Erica Haslag put down a kill.

That’s when the Lady Jays took control with a 5-0 spurt. After a kill by McKnelly, Makenzy Kliethermes came up with a big block. That might have played a factor in Helias having two hitting errors out of the next three points, while Kliethermes got other point on a kill off an overpass by the Lady Crusaders.

“(Jefferson City) is probably one of the tallest teams we’re going to play all year and you’re not going to hit through them,” Harris said. “You’ve got to swing high and hit it off their hands, or hit it around them. We didn’t do a very good job of going around them.”

The third game was the McKnelly show, as she racked up 10 kills, including three on Jefferson City’s first five points. That helped the Lady Jays take a 5-3 lead and they never trailed in the game.

“There was nothing different about anything else around her (from the first game to the end),” Meyer said of McKnelly. “The sets were the same, the people around here were the same, all it was for her was a decision that she was going to go and elevate. She knows that she can, and she knows that her team needs her to do that, day in and day out.”

Still, the Lady Jays’ biggest lead in the final game was just six. The first time came at 19-13 on a block by Madison Bond, the second at 20-14 on a kill by Bond off an assist from Maggie Albert.

Harris said the Lady Crusaders had trouble slowing down the Lady Jays’ momentum.

“They got two points on their serve the first game and then had 14 in the third game,” he said. “So our sideout offense just went, well I don’t know where it went, but it wasn’t here on the floor.”

But after that 20-14 lead, Helias scored the next four points on two Jefferson City errors and kills by Molly Sandbothe and Anna Murphy. However, that’s as close as the Lady Crusaders would get.

In addition to McKnelly’s big night, Bond chipped in with nine kills for the Lady Jays (3-5-1). Albert dished out a match-high 27 assists, while Mallory York led all players with 19 digs.

Murphy led Helias (2-1) with nine kills and shared the team lead of four blocks with Haslag and Sandbothe. Brittney Engelbrecht had 19 assists and Blake Berhorst had 11 digs.

Both teams return to action Thursday. Jefferson City will host Hickman, while Helias travels to Nixa.

In Tuesday’s JV match, Helias notched a 28-30, 26-24, 26-24 win.

Lexy Lamb racked up 10 assists and 15 digs for the Lady Crusaders (3-0), Suzie Kuensting had nine kills, Emma Albertson racked up seven blocks and Megan Brown picked up 15 digs.

Nicole Martin had 10 kills for the Lady Jays (2-2), Amy Turner had 14 service points and Mary Vandelicht had nine digs.

Helias claimed a 25-14, 25-16 win in the freshman match.

Laura Vanderfeltz led the Lady Crusaders (3-0) with 20 service points, including seven aces, and 12 digs. Kelsey Schenewerk had four kills and Morgan Fischer had seven assists.

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