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Tigers take down Packers

Albert Lea's Bethany Tennis digs the ball Thursday against Austin during Military Night at Albert Lea. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea’s Bethany Tennis digs the ball Thursday against Austin during Military Night at Albert Lea. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Defensive dominance combined with accurate passing and hitting lifted the Tigers in their home opener.

Camryn Keyeski, Bethany Tennis and Julia Deyak combined to produce over 70 digs to lead the Albert Lea volleyball team past Austin 3-1 Thursday on Military Night at Albert Lea.

“Everyone was involved in making sure the ball stayed off the floor,” said Tigers coach Jamie Cameron. “They kept getting better and better as the match went on.”

Game scores were 25-19, 23-25, 25-19 and 25-15.

After splitting the first two games, the Tigers (1-4, 1-0 Big Nine) scored five of the first six points in Game 3 to take the momentum and build an 18-11 lead. Albert Lea took an 18-11 lead in Game 4 as well and didn’t allow Austin to reach 20 points in either of the last two games.

Along with matching Tennis’ team-high 25 digs, Keyeski led Albert Lea with 20 kills, including the spike that sealed the 10-point Game 4 victory to win the match.

“She was reading the block really well, and the team was communicating with her on where to hit,” Cameron said. “She had (Austin) guessing the whole time.”

Deyak added 16 kills and 21 digs.

“Julia was coming alive,” Cameron said. “They couldn’t handle her.”

Paige Landsman led Albert Lea with 27 assists, and Kassandra Jansen added 17.

“Our passes were really on, and I give credit to our libero for getting those up for the outside (hitters),” Keyeski said.

Allison Grandstrand led the Tigers at the net with three blocks and had seven kills and six digs. Sarah DeHaan added two blocks, three kills and four digs.

Fans wore camouflage to show support for the United States military and armed forces. Between the second and third games, those who have served and are serving were recognized and applauded.

“It’s a neat thing that the girls wanted to do,” Cameron said. “The students and fans were pumped up and ready to participate. We appreciate our military.”

The Tigers have beaten the Packers (2-6, 0-1 Big Nine) in the last four matches with a combined game score of 12-2.

“They’re our rivals, and we had a great crowd coming out,” Keyeski said.

Next, Albert Lea will play at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Mankato East (2-2, 1-2 Big Nine). The Cougars will be coming off three matches Saturday at the Shakopee Tournament. Mankato East started 2-1 but was swept Thursday against Rochester Century.