Knights bounce back for win in volleyball

Caitlin Miner blocks a kill attempt by Mabel-Canton’s Payton Danielson. Kingsland teammate Rachel Hansen also blocks. CHRISTINE VREEMAN/SPRING VALLEY TRIBUNE
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The Kingsland volleyball team wound up with a split in two Southeast Conference matches last week, losing the first match to a conference powerhouse and then coming back to win its second match of the week two days later.

The Knights started with a 3-0 (8-25, 22-25, 12-25) loss at Mabel-Canton on Sept. 25, falling to 0-3 this season against the Cougars. Kingsland bounced back with a solid 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-17) road win at Randolph in the only regular season match this fall against the Rockets. The Knights are now 8-9 (6-4 SEC East) on the season.

Lost to M-C

The Knights ran into some good competition on the road at Mabel-Canton, the third and final match between the two teams. The Cougars made it a sweep of the season series, taking the match 3-0 (8-25, 20-25, 12-25). Mabel-Canton previously beat the Knights 2-0 on Sept. 1 (M-C Labor Day tourney) and in Kingsland 3-0 just three days afterward.

“We’d been playing better and better volleyball but ran into a hot-serving team from Mabel-Canton,” said Knights’ coach Sam Hanley. “We are still improving, but it’s also day-by-day, depending upon what we see on the court.”

Receiving serves was a big challenge against the Cougars, 20-time defending Southeast Conference champs. Kingsland played 31 of 76 (41 percent) serves successfully in the back row, the Knights’ lowest percentage in several matches. The back row did come up with 33 digs against the M-C attack, led by 14 digs from Taylor Zimmerman and eight from Alyssa Link.

Because the back row couldn’t get the ball to the front row consistently well, the Knights couldn’t muster a lot of offense against the Cougars. They finished with 16 kills and 11 errors in 66 attacks (8 percent efficiency). All-conference outside hitter Lauren Buchholtz was held in check, finishing second on the team with six kills while Ellie Buchholtz led the Knights with seven. The offense didn’t have a lot of rhythm, finishing with just 15 set assists (Ellie Buchholtz eight, Link seven).

The Knights weren’t especially aggressive at the service line against Mabel-Canton, a team good at returning serves. At the line, Kingsland hit 36 of 51 attempts (70 percent) and just three aces, all coming from Nora Jahn (team-best 11 of 12 serving).

The front row defensive numbers keep improving as the Knights had 9.5 blocks against the smaller front row of the Cougars. Junior middle hitter Caitlin Miner led the team with three blocks and Lauren Buchholtz added two.

Win vs. Randolph

After a tough loss Tuesday, the Knights improved in every statistical category against the Rockets, winning the match 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-17). Kingsland (SEC East Division) won its only match of the year against SEC-West Division foe Randolph (3-8, 3-5 SEC).

The Knights’ attack was more aggressive and efficient against the Rockets than it was against the Cougars. Kingsland finished with 28 kills and 11 errors in 77 attempts (a solid 22 percent efficiency). Lauren Buchholtz led the team with 10 kills, while Jahn had a productive night with eight kills. Freshman middle hitter Shelby Beck added five kills to the Knights’ attack. Link quarterbacked the offense with 26 of the team’s 28 set assists.

The Knights were also much more aggressive at the service line, hitting 86 percent of serves over the net (58 for 67) and getting 10 aces, more than triple the result against Mabel-Canton. Jahn had another effective night serving the volleyball, leading the team with four aces. Zimmerman added three ace serves while going a perfect 12 of 12.

The team was very solid defensively, finishing with 14.5 blocks at the net. Beck led the defense with four blocks and Link added to an all-around great night with three blocks. In the back row, Kingsland wound up with 45 digs, doing an effective job of keeping Randolph attacks off the floor. Lauren Buchholtz (17 digs) and Link (15 digs) combined for 32 of the team’s 45 digs.

“The front row is getting better defensively,” Hanley said. “They need to keep improving at getting where they need to be, so they don’t leave the back-row defense out on an island.”

The Knights were much more effective receiving serves, playing 29 of 42 successfully (70 percent).


Kingsland has one match on the schedule this week, at home against Houston on Thursday, Oct. 4, going for a sweep against the Hurricanes. Kingsland won the previous matchup in Houston 3-0 on Sept. 11. After that, the Knights are home on Tuesday, Oct. 9, against Lanesboro. The Knights have already beaten the Burros twice in the Mabel-Canton Labor Day tourney (identical 2-0 scores) and in Lanesboro for the first regular-season matchup on Sept. 18 (3-0 score).