Blair Oaks tops Sullivan in home opener for Lueckenhoff

Blair Oaks outside hitter Bailey Braun (far left) serves the ball during Tuesday night's match against Sullivan at Blair Oaks High School. (Greg Jackson/News Tribune)

WARDSVILLE -- It was a happy homecoming for Danielle Lueckenhoff.

The Blair Oaks volleyball coach won her home debut Tuesday at her alma mater with relative ease. The Lady Falcons swept the Sullivan Lady Eagles for a 25-14, 25-14, 25-19 victory at Blair Oaks High School.

“That win feels good,” Lueckenhoff said. “The girls were excited, everybody was on edge, but they came out and got the job done.”

Blair Oaks started its season Saturday by winning three of its five matches at the MICDS Brace for Impact Tournament. Lueckenhoff said battling back was a key point of emphasis during the tournament.

“When we lose a couple points in a row, one of those goals for us is to turn that serve-receive right around,” she said.

Sullivan only had 17 service points in three sets Tuesday, never really having any momentum until the third set.

“The girls shut them down relatively quick,” Lueckenhoff said. “We did switch up a couple things in that third set, but that’s part of growing. We want our girls to be comfortable with that.”

Blair Oaks jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the first set, getting a pair of kills from Autumn Bax during that stretch. Bax recorded seven of her match-high 17 kills in the opening set.

Several of Bax’s spikes drew big cheers from the crowd.

“As much as I tell the girls it’s not about the outside crowd we have, it was tonight,” Lueckenhoff said. “They get us pumped up, they feed off that. Her coming out and getting us started was awesome.”

The Lady Falcons finished the set on a 6-0 run, finishing it off with kills by Bailey Braun and Aubrey Sandbothe.

Blair Oaks only trailed in the second set after committing an error on the opening point. Horn had a kill and Bax added two kills to stretch the lead to 17-8.

Abbey Heckman served an ace and Gabby Horn and Sandbothe had a block on the final point to give the Lady Falcons a two-set lead.

Sullivan led 6-3 in the third set after a pair of aces by Emily Clonts. The Lady Eagles widened their lead to 8-4 following a kill by Ava Blankenship.

Blair Oaks quickly closed the gap to 8-7 after an ace by Bax. A kill by Braun tied the score at 12, then Bax had a pair of kills to finish off long volleys that swung the momentum in the Lady Falcons’ favor.

“It’s all about shutting down their momentum, taking it and making it ours,” Lueckenhoff said.

Braun finished with 10 kills, with six of them coming in the third set.

“Our passing and our setting came together and gave her those opportunities on the outside,” Lueckenhoff said.

Horn had kills on the Lady Falcons’ final two points of the third set to finish with eight in the match.

“Her consistency, she maintained that through all three sets for us,” Lueckenhoff said.

Libby Juergensmeyer finished with 35 assists for the Lady Falcons, while Heckman tallied four blocks and served two aces. Bax had a team-high 15 digs and Braun finished with nine.

The Blair Oaks defense limited Sullivan (2-4) to just 24 kills as a team. Blankenship finished with a team-high 10 kills.

“We made some really great defensive moves in the back row,” Lueckenhoff said. “It didn’t matter who it was, they made a move on the ball.”

Blair Oaks (4-2) opens Tri-County Conference play Thursday at home against School of the Osage. The freshman match starts at 5 p.m., followed by the JV and varsity matches.

In Tuesday’s JV match, Blair Oaks defeated Sullivan 25-23, 25-17 to improve to 4-1-1 record.

Maddy Jones had four kills, Anna Prenger had 12 assists and Alisa Ernst finished with 11 digs for the Lady Falcons.

The Blair Oaks C team opened its season with a 25-17, 25-22 win against Sullivan.

Leighton McCasland and Lydia Christian each had five kills, Morgan Wilde finished with 12 assists and Hatti Meldrum and Zoey Rackers added 10 and seven digs, respectively.