Volleyball: Third-ranked Eagan tops Ponies

Stillwater’s Leah Richter (3) and Stephanie Dietrich (20) go up for a block during Game 2 of Tuesday’s 3-1 nonconference volleyball loss to Eagan at Stillwater Area High School. (Gazette staff photos by Stuart Groskreutz)

Stillwater’s Leah Richter (3) and Stephanie Dietrich (20) go up for a block during Game 2 of Tuesday’s 3-1 nonconference volleyball loss to Eagan at Stillwater Area High School. (Gazette staff photos by Stuart Groskreutz)

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — Eagan started and finished strong while recording a 3-1 nonconference volleyball victory over the Ponies on Tuesday at Stillwater Area High School.

Sophomore Bri Momchilovich passes a serve in the third game.

Sophomore Bri Momchilovich passes a serve in the third game.

The third-ranked Wildcats won by scores of 25-13, 25-23, 20-25 and 25-15 in Stillwater’s home opener and second match under new head coach Bob Fisher.

Behind South Carolina recruit Taylr McNeil, Eagan scored the first 10 points of the match and cruised to a comfortable victory in Game 1.

“She came out hitting on all eight cylinders,” Fisher said. “She is no doubt one of the top players in the state. She is an exceptional talent.”

Passing miscues contributed to Eagan’s strong start, but the Ponies recovered to play better in the second and third games. Stillwater led 23-22 in the second game before the Wildcats finished with three straight points to take a 2-0 lead in the match.

Senior Susan Evans delivers a set for the Ponies on the attack during Tuesday’s match against third-ranked Eagan.

Senior Susan Evans delivers a set for the Ponies on the attack during Tuesday’s match against third-ranked Eagan.

“In addition to the obvious improvement in passing from the slow start, our block improved as the night went on,” Fisher said. “We were able to find the tempo of our offense and our middles (Stephanie) Dietrich and (Stephanie) Houle did a good job of closing and shutting down some very strong hitters.”

The Ponies (1-1) continued building on that momentum with strong play in a back-and-forth third game.

“I thought as we pushed through Game 2, our right side came through with (Leah) Richter and (Amelia) Nora as we settled into our groove,” Fisher said. “I thought Savannah (Sprenger) and Autumn (Nyenhuis) hit some very nice balls on the outside in Games 2 and 3 when we started to find our rhythm.”

Eagan bounced back from that loss in Game 3 to regain control with a strong start in the fourth game, jumping out to a 9-2 advantage. Stillwater fought back to within 16-3, but the Wildcats closed out the match on a 9-2 run.

“They are not a one-dimensional team,” Fisher said. “They had other weapons (in addition to McNeil) and that’s why they’re one of the better teams in the state.”

The coach also reserved some praise for sophomores, Bri Momchilovich and Olivia Welsch as they gain valuable experience at the varsity level.

“Those kids are stepping up and they’re realizing the pace of high school volleyball,” Fisher said. “Those two are really stepping up to the plate.”

Stats from the match were not available, but Fisher was upbeat about the team going forward. The Ponies face another state-ranked opponent in Southwest Christian on Thursday and he expects this strong competition early to pay off down the road.

“We had great fan support,” Fisher said. “It was a nice turnout with the students and Stillwater is so supportive when you get a team playing good volleyball, so that was fun.”

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