A buzz has been emanating from the Brainerd High School gym the last few weeks and it hasn't been caused by a hornets' nest.
The addition of transfer students Joan Ebnet and Megan Arns from Pequot Lakes and Brooke Rollins from Pine River-Backus has created a racket on the Warriors' volleyball team. Once they jell with their new teammates they could help Brainerd be a contender in the Central Lakes Conference and Section 8, Class 3A.
The Willmar Cardinals capitalized on the Warriors' lack of familiarity by handing Brainerd a 15-7, 13-15, 15-9, 15-10 victory Tuesday.
Willmar coach Mary Hanson said the six Cardinals who started Tuesday, and the one reserve who played, were on the same Junior Olympic team this summer.
"We didn't get shook," Hanson said. "We had some big leads, and we gave them up. We could have folded but we didn't."
The Cardinals could have folded after letting Brainerd rally to win the second game. Willmar built an 11-5 edge before the Warriors rallied and eventually won the contest on a Haley Bower ace serve.
Instead, Willmar bounced back to win the last two games.
"We're still getting used to each other," Warriors coach Heidi Hahn said. "We have a large group of sophomores, and a large group of seniors, then we have the transfer students. We're kind of uncomfortable at the moment.
"To be honest, (assistant coach) Carla Stall and I are still figuring out who needs to go where to optimize our offense. We have some young setters we need to hone in, but Cassie Pieri did a nice job setting tonight."
Willmar set the table for the win by finding the seams in the Warriors' defense, often catching Brainerd out of position. The Warriors also struggled to stop Willmar's big hitters, Angie Olson, Serena Jans and Danielle Dahl.
"We don't really know each other yet," said Ebnet, who has practiced five days with her new team. "I think we will get the hang of it later on, in about a week."
The Cardinals' game plan was to keep the ball away from Ebnet, a ferocious spiker. The senior still finished with 14 kills, one of which was blasted so hard that it hit a Cardinal in the back row flush in the face.
"They knew where I was," Ebnet said. "I don't know if they were trying to keep it away from me. They were serving to me. I like that."
The Warriors served just 82 percent (71 of 87), which didn't help their quest for victory.
"We didn't pass well, although that got better," Hahn said. "The main thing that killed us was serving. We missed way too many serves. When you miss serves, you're out of rhythm. You have to start, stop, start, stop, constantly. If we can serve better we will see our overall movement improve also.
"They picked on our younger passers. They knew who they were, which is smart volleyball."
Game note: Rollins is ineligible until Sept. 3 due to a Minnesota State High School League violation.
Lauren Kirkpatrick 4 kills, 2 block assists, 4-6 serving, 14 set assists, 7 digs
Cassie Pieri 19 set assists, 5 digs, 17-19 serving, 4 ace serves
Joan Ebnet 14 kills, 9 block assists, 1 solo block, 14 digs, 2 set assists, 16-18 serving, 5 ace serves
Haley Bower 5 kills, 10 digs, 15-18 serving, 3 aces
Bekah Hewitt 3 kills, 3 block assists, 1 solo block, 7 digs, 5-5 serving, 1 ace serve
Megan Arns 2 kills, 8 block assists, 3 digs, 6-9 serving
Jvonne Larson 2 block assists, 3 digs, 3-6 serving
Noelle Razidlo 1 kill, 2 block assists, 1-2 serving, 1 dig
Kilah Berry 2 set assists
Sarah Johnson 1-1 serving, 2 digs
Bridget Gogolin 3-3 serving, 1 ace serve
Conference -- B 0-1. Overall -- B 0-1. Next match -- Alexandria at Brainerd 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.