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Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Carley Henning (12) slams one of her 17 kills Thursday night against Triton. The Cougars would win a five-set thriller, 3-2, over the Cobras. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)
Zumbrota-Mazeppa's Carley Henning (12) slams one of her 17 kills Thursday night against Triton. The Cougars would win a five-set thriller, 3-2, over the Cobras. (Republican Eagle photo by Kyle Stevens)

Volleyball: Z-M wins thriller over Triton

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ZUMBROTA – From the get-go Thursday night, Carley Henning was the go-to girl for the Zumbrota-Mazeppa volleyball team. Henning would end up leading the Cougars with 17 kills, but found herself on the bench during the most critical moments of the match.

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Tied 12-12 in the fifth set, Henning’s turn to serve was over, and with the ball back with the Cougars, Henning came off the court. That left Z-M without the night’s best hitter, and the Cougars facing yet another Triton charge.

But Henning’s teammates came through in the clutch as the Cougars came back in that final set to beat the Cobras 25-22, 26-24, 17-25, 14-25, 17-15 for a Hiawatha Valley League victory.

“We said, ‘Oh, if we can stay with the rotation, she was right front, keep it, keep it, keep it,’” said Z-M coach Stacy Liebenow. “But you have to trust in all the other girls that they’re going to do their job. And they definitely did. It was a team effort, definitely.”

Said Henning, “It sucks being on the bench, but I trust Molly (Lawler) and Hailey (Dykes), who come in for me, to do the best they can, too.”

With Henning watching from the sidelines, Kaitlen Buck picked up some of the slack. After the Cobras pushed their lead to 14-12, Buck silenced Triton’s student section with a kill. Three points later, it was Buck, again, who quieted the raucous visitors, tying the set 15-15. After a hitting error against Triton, a small rally ensued on match point. And when the ball hit the ground after a misplay by the Cobras, the celebration was on.

“Holy cow,” Liebenow said after the match concluded, smiling from ear to ear. “Some key players really stepped up. Carly was on fire hitting the ball, and when she went to the back row, our other hitters had some big blocks and Katie came in and had a couple awesome kills to get us the ball back and run with it, definitely so much fun watching. (It was) intense, but fun at the same time. And nerve-wracking.”

A fifth set seemed likely between the two teams after the Cougars took the first set between two teams that seemed evenly matched. But after the second set was also won by Z-M, Triton made the bench change slowly. The Cougars even jumped out to an 8-4 lead, but the Cobras answered with the same spirit they showed in the first two sets, going on a 9-0 run to take an 18-12 lead.

The fourth set was a continuation of the third as Triton cruised to an 8-2 lead, then closing out the set by scoring seven of the last eight points.

But Z-M found its game facing match point in the fifth set.

“Just to get it over and be smart,” Henning said of the plan in the final frame. “Hit it hard if Kalli (Paukert) got me a good set, and, just, play the best I’ve ever played.”

Paukert finished with 31 set assists and 16 digs while Dykes closed with six blocks. Buck had nine digs to go with her six kills, and Lawler totaled 26 digs.

The Cougars (6-6 overall, 2-3 HVL) will head to La Crescent Tuesday before hosting Kasson-Mantorville Thursday.

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Kyle Stevens is a sports reporter for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, Kyle worked at the Owatonna People’s Press, as well as KWLM and KLFN in Willmar. You can contact Kyle by phone at (651) 301-7879, via e-mail at kstevens@republican-eagle.com, and follow him on Twitter @RE_KStevens.
(651) 301-7879
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