Senior libero Sydney Ellingson and the University of Jamestown women's volleyball team respect good competition.
The Jimmies went up against the Great Plains Athletic Conference's statistical back row leader for a second time at Newman Arena on Friday. Morningside College's Kayla Harris entered the match leading in both total digs (390) and digs per set (5.7), but the Jimmies overcame early attacking issues to sweep the visiting Mustangs 25-19, 25-21, 25-16.
Ellingson anchors one of the better back rows in the nation, which includes teammates Hannah Schiele and Anna Holen, and she knows a solid player when she sees one.
The junior Harris is a three-year starter and is closing in on 1,500 digs.
"I have a lot of respect for her," Ellingson said. "She sees the court so well and moves so smoothly. She's really fun to play against."
Ellingson (17 digs), Schiele (15) and the Jimmie defense helped buy the UJ offense a little time after 15 attacking errors through the first two games tried to give the Mustangs a spark. But that's what makes good teams good.
The Jimmies improved to 17-1 overall and can win the GPAC regular-season crown outright with a win over Northwestern College tomorrow night.
"I can look over my shoulder and I know that Hannah and Anna are gonna be there without thinking twice," Ellingson said. "We just have that trust and that bond, and it makes it so easy to do what we do because we have that trust in each other."
Trailing 11-9 in game 1, Nicole Schmitz, Holen and Corina Huff contributed three kills to a 4-0 Jimmie burst that turned the tide. Junior Jayla Ritter later broke a 14-14 tie with one of her six kills and the Jimmies sailed.
UJ was hitting negative midway through game 2, finding the floor just three times in its first 22 attacks. But Schmitz, the hard-swinging true freshman from nearby Oakes, kicked off an 11-1 Jimmie run with a bomb from the outside that put the home team out front 22-14.
"We came out and we made, I don't know how many hitting errors right away," Hegerle said. "The definition in volleyball of being great is just being good. The opposite of good is bad, and sometimes when we try to do too much we're just bad."
Schmitz finished with seven kills, while Holen and Kalli Hegerle led the way with eight apiece. UJ wound up hitting .219 after dominating the third game.
"We just have to be good, and a lot of that's just trusting our defense, making good hits, making wise decisions; versus trying to murder every ball," Hegerle said. "I thought we did a better job of limiting our errors so much hitting versus set 1."
In the mixed bag that is 2020, first-year Morningside head coach Jessica Squier and the Mustangs were playing without junior starting setter Sabrina Creason. Sophomore Kendall Evans stepped in and recorded 20 assists, but the Mustangs hit just .053.
UJ defeated Morningside 3-1 on Sept. 26 in Sioux City, Iowa. The Mustangs fell to 10-10 overall with one match left to the fall.
"A lot of it was communication errors and looking for consistency, and that's really hard when you put a new person out there," said Squire. "(UJ's) defense always is stellar. It's deflating because their defense is so good and they run stuff down, so I give them credit when they do those things against us and that's how we felt when we played them at home.
"We'd finally get a good swing, they'd get the ball up and run it down."
Hegerle will be looking for the Jimmies to just be "good" tomorrow back at Newman Arena for round No. 2 against Northwestern College. The Red Raiders (15-2, 13-2 GPAC) dealt UJ its lone loss in 3-1 fashion on Nov. 5 in Orange City, Iowa.
"We just have to really not worry about big picture things and take care of stuff on the court," Hegerle said. "I know we didn't play our best volleyball when we were down there and our team recognizes that. It's really about us taking care of our own emotions and what we're doing on our side of the net."
It's the final match of the fall for the Jimmies, as GPAC postseason play is scheduled to resume in the spring. The varsity is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.
"I just get so excited playing teams like that because they're so similar to us," Ellingson said. "They just give, and give, and give and they're just so fun to play."
University of Jamestown 3, Morningside College 0
MC 19 21 16
UJ 25 25 25
MC -- Kills: Caitlin Makovicka 12, Krista Zenk 9, Amara Austin 3. Assists: Kendall Evans 20, Digs: Kayla Harris 14, Ashley Boer 9, Ryley Rolls 8, Makovicka 5.
UJ -- Aces: Hannah Schiele 3, Jackie Meiklejohn, Megan Gaffaney. Kills: Anna Holen 8, Kalli Hegerle 8, Nicole Schmitz 7, Corina Huff 6, Jayla Ritter 6, Taylor Sabinash 4, Kadyn Merhing 2, Gaffaney. Blocks: Huff 3, Hegerle 2.5, Ritter 1.5, Holen 1, Mehring 0.5, Sabinash 0.5. Assists: Meiklejohn 25, Gaffaney 12, Holen, Ellie Holen, Schiele, Ellingson. Digs: Ellingson 17, Schiele 15, Meiklejohn 14, A. Holen 7, Gaffaney 3, Schmitz, Huff, Ritter.
Records: Jamestown 17-1, 14-1 GPAC. Morningside 10-10, 7-8.