Closing time

Published 2:52 am Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Albert Lea’s volleyball head coach Jaime Mauseth has spent much of the season trying to teach her team to be mentally tough and how to close out sets and the Tigers finally put those aspects into practice Tuesday in a 3-2 win over USC in Wells.

Albert Lea (5-11) got its first victory of the season outside of tournament play against the Rebels by finding a way to close out a match and fight through some difficult situations.

Albert Lea’s finest moment came in the third set, one where the Tigers trailed until they took a 23-22 lead. Albert Lea trailed by as many as five points and delivered a 27-25 victory to take a 2-1 lead in the match.

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“It was so good to actually close and win a whole match,” Mauseth said. “This is going to be a big confidence booster for them, especially in the third game, we came from behind and won the game. That’s huge for us to do.”

USC (6-4) came back to take the fourth set 25-16, but the Tigers finally put away a match when they needed to in the fifth set and did so emphatically with a 15-6 victory.

Albert Lea’s ability to tip at the net and its placement of shots on the court helped the Tigers outlast the Rebels.

“We’ve really been talking about looking for open spots on the opponents’ court and just putting the ball there,” Mauseth said. “If that’s tipping, then that’s tipping. I think the girls saw the court very well tonight, they saw the open spots.”

Neither team was particularly sharp throughout the match, but Albert Lea was able to hit its mark for the Tigers’ first win over USC in at least four years.

“If we would have just played halfway like we can play, there shouldn’t have been any question on it,” said Rebels head coach Jolene Bute. “Mentally they couldn’t get over someone shanking a ball or missing a serve.”

USC displayed moments of its capability especially in the two sets the Rebels won. In the second set USC won 25-15 and the fourth set the Rebels breezed to a 25-16 victory. But missed serves and poor passing held USC back in the other three sets.

Bethany Sekora led the Tigers with 13 kills and Kristine Kelly added 11. Kelly also had 32 digs in the match while Caylee Tennis had 39 assists.

The Rebel hitters weren’t able to find a rhythm throughout the match and failed to be as potent as they can be at times. Kayla Stenzel led USC with nine kills and Val Sahr had seven.

“It’s really good to see that everything we’ve been working on in practice is paying off to help us win games,” Mauseth said.