Volleyball: Ponies hand Forest Lake first conference setback

OAK PARK HEIGHTS — On the heels of consecutive nonconference losses on a weekend road trip, the Stillwater volleyball team bounced back with a 3-1 Suburban East Conference victory over Forest Lake on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at Stillwater Area High School.

It was the first conference setback of the season for the Rangers (4-1 SEC, 9-6), leaving Stillwater (5-0, 11-4) and East Ridge (5-0, 11-5) alone atop the standings. The Ponies and Raptors will meet at East Ridge on Tuesday, Oct. 10 in a match that will likely decide the conference championship.

The victory was also important for fifth-ranked Stillwater’s confidence after falling at Grand Rapids 3-2 on Friday, Sept. 29 and to 10th-ranked Moorhead 3-1 on Saturday, Sept. 30.

The Rangers opened with a 25-17 win in Game 1 on Tuesday, before Stillwater prevailed in the next three by scores of 25-21, 25-13 and 25-20.

“Every aspect of our game got better in Game 2,” Ponies coach Bob Fisher said. “From passing, setting, serving and receiving, it was improvement across the board. We were blocking and picking up all the tips and really cleaned up our side of the net. It was a small improvement across many areas that made a big difference in that game.”

Stillwater continues to play without middles Brooke Aschenbrener and Reece Koehler, but Lexi Oeltjen moved in from the outside and Morgan Grim continues to play well after moving up from the JV team.

“Game 3 was pretty smooth,” Fisher said. “We just ran our offense real well and we passed extremely well.”

The Rangers scored the first five points in Game 4, but Stillwater responded well and was able to close out the match in four sets.

Moorhead 3, Stillwater 1

At Moorhead, traveling to Moorhead after facing Grand Rapids the previous night, the Ponies struggled on Saturday while falling to the Spuds 25-10, 21-25, 25-16 and 25-15 in a nonconference match on Saturday afternoon.

“They’re a quality opponent and have a solid defense,” Ponies coach Bob Fisher said. “They are probably a state tournament contender out of Section 8AAA. We probably could have served and passed a little better.”

Rachel Houle led the Ponies with 20 kills and Kayla Gjerde added 13. Olivia Walsh guided the attack while totaling 36 set assists.

“We blocked better in Game 2, but our serving and passing went downhill in the three games we lost,” Fisher said.

Junior Britta Borrman led the Ponies with 12 digs.

“Britta had a real nice match in the back row,” Fisher said. “She’s proving why she’s one of the top liberos around.”

Grand Rapids 3, Stillwater 2

At Grand Rapids, the Ponies had their eight-match winning streak snapped by Grand Rapids on Friday, Sept. 29. The Thunderhawks bounced back after dropping the first set to prevail 20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 15-25 and 15-11.

“We had some real good moments in that five-game match, but they’re a strong team,” Ponies coach Bob Fisher said.

Rachel Houle led Stillwater with 21 kills and Kayla Gjerde added 17. Britta Borrman notched 28 digs and Olivia Walsh added 44 set assists.

“With our new makeshift lineup, we played significantly better than we did against Park, but we were up against a better team,” Fisher said. “We struggled in our passing in Game 5.”

Stillwater 3, Park 0

At Cottage Grove, the Ponies faced a set point against them in Game 3, but were able to complete a three-game sweep in a conference victory over Park on Thursday, Sept. 28. Stillwater won by scores of 25-15, 25-10 and 26-24.

“We got to use our depth a lot and a lot of people got in on the match,” Ponies coach Bob Fisher said. “Their hard work is showing off and it was a successful match.”

Rachel Houle supplied a team-high 11 kills for the Ponies while Kayla Gjerde added seven kills. Sisters Lexi and Maddie Oeltjen contributed five and four kills apiece.

Houle was also strong at the serving line in Game 2. She provided two strong serving runs and totaled eight aces alone in the second set.

Olivia Walsh finished with 24 set assists and Britta Borrman registered 12 digs.

“Kalley Tomek had a nice run of serves in the third set,” Fisher said. “We had to rally a little bit, but we won the last three points.”