OAK PARK HEIGHTS — The Stillwater volleyball team rallied to win the opening game and that propelled the Ponies to a 3-0 Suburban East Conference victory over Forest Lake on Thursday at Stillwater Area High School.
The Ponies won by scores of 26-24, 25-18 and 25-23 to improve to 2-0 in conference play and 6-3 overall. All three of Stillwater’s losses have come against ranked opponents.
“I thought all in all, it was a good match,” Stillwater coach Bob Fisher said.
The Ponies have did not dwell on the loss of senior captain Savannah Sprenger, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Tuesday’s victory at East Ridge. Led by Autumn Nyenhuis with 14 kills, Stillwater used a balanced attack to overtake the Rangers (1-1, 6-5).
“That’s really tough to lose a senior captain and four-year player, but she’s a fierce competitor and she’s on the bench keeping everybody pumped up. On the court, everybody else has to pick up a little bit of Savannah’s role and embrace the challenge. There’s no doubt that will take a little bit of time to figure it out, but these guys are picking it up fast and learning what they need to do. You don’t just replace a four-year varsity player that fast, but the kids are trying to fill her shoes and I think they’re doing a good job.”
The Ponies trailed 23-20 in Game 1, but finished strong behind some strong serving by Susan Evans, who also led the Ponies with 18 set assists.
“We hit pretty well. When we kept the ball in system we were pretty strong,” said Fisher, whose team racked up 17 kills on 26 points in the opening game. Nyenhuis led the way with seven kills in Game 1.
The second game was also close, tied 16-all, before Stillwater closed on a 9-2 run to grab a 2-0 lead in the match.
“Brianna Momchilovich had a nice run through a couple of timeouts there and was really serving tough to kind of close them out,” Fisher said.
Stillwater took charge in the third and final game, but the Rangers rallied from a 15-3 deficit to tie the game at 18-all.
“We were hitting on all eight cylinders, but then just kind of went into a funk and maybe coasted a little bit,” Fisher said. “Forest Lake made some nice plays and before you knew it, it was a dogfight before we found our game again and finished them out.”
Stephanie Dietrich finished with 10 kills for the Ponies while Amelia Nora (5), Steph Houle (5), eighth-grader Kayla Gjerde (4) and Leah Richter (3) also contributed on the attack. Janae Momchilovich contributed 16 set assists.
“Bri Momchilovich had a good match serving and I thought our libero Olivia Welsch has stepped into that role nicely,” Fisher said. “It’s encouraring.”