Coming off a second-place finish at the Pierz Invitational Oct. 6, the Brainerd Warriors volleyball team was feeling confident going into the home stretch of its Central Lakes Conference schedule.
With a 4-5 conference record heading into Tuesday's match with the St. Cloud Apollo Eagles, Brainerd wanted to even that record.
That's exactly what they did as they beat the Eagles 15-11, 15-10, 14-16, 15-7.
The first-game win set the tone for the Warriors.
"It was really important to win that first game so we had the intensity and motivation to keep going," said Warriors outside hitter Joan Ebnet. "The third game we just had a little mind thing. They got a few aces on us, but we worked out of it."
According to Brainerd head coach Heidi Hahn, her team needed that first game. Apollo had built a 9-3 lead, but Brainerd, behind the power of Ebnet's right arm, came storming back to tie it 9-9. Then Brainerd just cruised.
"That's just trusting each other," said Hahn. "This team has always built a hole for whatever reason. Now we're digging the hole and at least trusting that we can get out of it. I didn't see us waver in confidence.
"We need to win. This is a team of momentum. We need the win to go into the next game. We don't do well from behind. I don't know of any matches where we lost the first game and won. I don't think we've ever done it."
Brainerd carried the momentum into the second game with Brooke Rollins closing out the win with a kill.
The Warriors built a big lead in the third game only to see it evaporate, but came back to win the fourth game easily.
Brainerd has won five of its last six matches after struggling early. Because of new faces and lack of varsity experience, the Warriors dug themselves into an early hole. Now with a rejuvenated team concept, Brainerd looks competitive.
"The kids re-evaluated," said Hahn. "They took a serious look at what was going on and what was happening. Now they're focused. They have the same goal and they all want the same thing and it's showing in our practice.
"These kids have chosen to fix it. We've done a lot of team building and we're going to keep doing that."
Hahn said there have been closed-door meetings, team building exercises and team discussions. Hahn has tried everything to get everyone on the same page and trusting each other. It seems to have worked.
Haley Bower was the quiet contributor against Apollo. The sophomore recorded five kills, two digs, four set assists and was 19-20 serving with five aces.
Lauren Kirkpatrick led the team in set assists with 20.
Ebnet had 19 kills and Rollins finished with 10.
Sophomore Megan Arns also had a nice match with 11 kills, mostly reading the defense and finding the short open hole.
All four of Brainerd's remaining matches are against conference opponents. They host St. Cloud Tech, Little Falls and Sartell and travel to Alexandria.
Joan Ebnet 14-15 serving, 5 aces, 15 digs, 19 kills, 2 block assists
Brooke Rollins 18-20 serving, 4 aces, 7 digs, 10 kills, 5 block assists
Megan Arns 15-17 serving, 2 aces, 4 digs, 11 kills
Haley Bower 19-20 serving, 4 set assists, 2 digs, 5 kills
Bekah Hewitt 8-9 serving, 8 digs, 2 kills, 2 block assists
Lauren Kirkpatrick 8-11 serving, 2 aces, 20 set assists
Cassie Pieri 5-5 serving, 5 set assists, 2 digs, 1 kill, 1 block assist
Sarah Johnson 1 kill, 7 digs
Bridget Gogolin 5-6 serving 4 digs
Missy Bordwell 4 digs
Jvonne Larson 4-5 serving, 2 aces, 5 digs, 1 kill
Conference -- B 5-5. Overall -- B 12-10. Next match -- Brainerd vs. St. Cloud Tech 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
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