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Hegerle, Jimmies humble Tigers in GPAC quarterfinals

The University of Jamestown women's volleyball team hosted Doane University on Nov. 6.

Kalli Hegerle's parents have had a busy weekend.

First, they traveled 206 miles west to see their son, Carson and the West Fargo football team defeat Bismarck Century in the Class AA state semifinal game, then they made the trek back east to see Hegerle and the undefeated University of Jamestown women's volleyball team take down Doane University 3-0 in the GPAC tournament quarterfinals at UJ's Newman Arena.

Needless to say, it was gas money well spent.

The Jimmies defended their undefeated record to move to 29-0 overall and 1-0 on the postseason. The Jimmies will face Dakota Wesleyan Wednesday in the GPAC semifinals. The game is slated for 7 p.m. at the Newman.

"I was at the game last night and that was a lot of fun," Hegerle said. "Tonight I felt good, I felt confident and our team was confident in each other. Jackie (Meiklejohn) really opened up the net a lot and our middles did an awesome job at getting the blockers pulled into the middle so I had an open net."

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The Jimmies took 28 minutes to secure the first set win over Doane. Explosive energy and dynamic yet balanced hitting at the net helped UJ produce an early 11-6 lead. The home team managed to keep in front of the visitors but the Tigers did manage to come within a pair of points -- twice -- late in the frame.

The Jimmies rebounded from the few missed balls in the shot court to take a 24-20 lead. Corina Huff ended it with a smack that trapped the ball between the net and the blockers' hands. Huff ended the sweep with at .450 from the net. The senior middle drilled hit 11 balls past the Tigers.

Aleah Zieske and Anna Holen were also hitting above the 300 mark. Zieske was .333 accounting for six kills in the first two sets while Holen was at a .356 with nine balls hammered over the Tigers' block on the outside. Zieske finished the night at .385 with six kills while Holen was one shy of double-digits with a .364 hitting percentage.

The Jimmies previously downed the Tigers 3-0 on Oct. 15 and while Saturday marked another straight-set victory, UJ head coach Jon Hegerle said he thought Doane did a better job at keeping the Jimmies in check, a feat they managed especially through the first two sets.

"I thought they served tougher, we couldn't stop Gabby Menghini -- they ran a 6x2 this time instead of a 5x1 and so in a number of ways I thought they were more competitive and more into the match," Jon said. "That's the Doane I thought we were going to see a couple of weeks ago because on film, that's what I see."

What was seen in the opening point of the second set was a 40-second rally that ended with an Ellie Holen assist to Hegerle who smashed it cross-court to give the team a 1-0 advantage. Nothing daunted, the Tigers kept drilling the ball at the Jimmies' defense.

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Doane got as close as tying the second at six, before a 10-4 UJ run put the Jimmies in a comfortable 16-10 position. In her 19 total attack attempts through the opening two frames, Hegerle recorded 12 kills and only made one error. The senior right-side was hitting at a monstrous .579 hitting percentage through two sets.

Hegerle, a transfer from the North Dakota State University volleyball program, came to the Jimmies in the spring of 2020 but as her last name indicates, the senior outside has been playing volleyball with her uncle, Jon, for longer than her year and a half on the Jimmie roster.

"I grew up going to his camps and then in high school he started critiquing me and 'coaching' me," Hegerle said. "I remember one time my whole family set up a net in the Hansen Center and played a game. It was super fun.

"Coach is so amazing and his knowledge of volleyball is insane. He puts so much trust in each of us. He's not going to get mad at us if we make a mistake or mess up. He really cares about us as people not just as players."

While he cares about the people part first, Jon has also raised some pretty stellar athletes -- his niece being one of them.

Hegerle and Holen became the first NAIA All-American first-team selections in UJ volleyball history last April at the NAIA national tournament. As a junior, the standout posted a hitting percentage of .305 with 301 kills. So far this season, her stats speak for themselves. With only one postseason match under her belt, the senior has managed 255 kills and is averaging a hitting rate of .325.

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"The move from NDSU has been amazing," Hegerle said. "I love it here. If you make a mistake on the court, you shake it off. Coach and my teammates don't care -- it's more about each other and having fun."

Hegerle, a 6-foot former setter for NDSU transformed into a right-side hitter under her uncle's instruction. As far as positions go, the right side has become the senior's favorite spot to hit up front.

"I was actually going to come and play outside and then in the preseason coach said I would probably be playing right side," Hegerle said. "Now it's my favorite thing about volleyball. I think in a hitting aspect, you see the court a little bit different and then obviously a lot of teams have their best hitters on the outside.

"It's really cool just having the opportunity to go up against them and block them and shut them down. That's one of my favorite parts about volleyball is blocking."

Hegerle ended the second set doing the thing she loved most, hammering the ball from the right side. The senior ended the match with a team-high of 15 kills and was hitting at .600. She had 27 total attacks.

Down 2-0, the Tigers let up on the gas pedal, allowing the Jimmies to run away with a 6-1 lead that soon, after some perfect pass-set-hit series, grew to 22-13. Menghini hung around, getting a few past Hegerle but the outside's 10 kills didn't do much against the Jimmies' steady defense or against the seven Jimmie attackers who all had positive hitting percentages.

"Kalli was frustrated with Menghini because she wanted to block her but Menghini was more frustrated with her because Kalli kept burning her," Jon said with a laugh. "Kalli has that ability she can bring down a match hitting the ball. She did that tonight."

University of Jamestown 3, Doane University 0

DU 20 19 16

UJ 25 25 25

DU -- Kills: Menghini 10, Genna Ryan-Piasecki 4, Ally Wallace 4, Simonie Mendenhall 3. Assists: Jaime Renshaw 15. Digs: Kennedy Scheele 3, Renshaw 3, Ally Wallace 2. Aces: Scheele 1.

UJ -- Kills: Hegerle 15, Huff 11, Holen 9, Zieske 6, Taylor Sabinash 5, Jayla Ritter 4, Megan Gaffaney 1. Assists: Jackie Meiklejohn 21, Gaffaney 19. Digs: Ellie Holen 14, Holen 14, Hannah Schiele 11, Gaffaney 4, Ritter 2, Meiklejohn 1, Hegerle 1, Averi Beyer 1, Zieske 1. Aces: Gaffaney 1, Beyer 1. Blocks: Sabinash 1, Hegerle 1, Ritter 1, Huff 1.

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