On The Offensive: Hitters Power Rangers

New Knoxville's Ellie Gabel hits the ball over the net during a Midwest Athletic Conference volleyball match against Marion Local on Thursday.
Sports Editor

On the final night of the regular season, this was a confidence booster heading into the postseason.

No. 9 ranked New Knoxville relied on its offense to pound the ball past Marion Local’s length at the net to prevail the Rangers to a 25-18, 25-22, 20-25, 25-18 Midwest Athletic Conference win against Marion Local on Senior Night.

“We looked really cleaned and I was really happy with how they played,” Rangers Morgan Strayer said. “Our defense is pretty good, but our offense stepped up.”

Ellie Gabel, Carsyn Henschen and Morgan Leffel  provided plenty of firepower on the edge for the Rangers (16-6, 6-3 MAC) to work the ball past the No. 11 ranked Flyers’ blockers of Molly Winner, Alana Pohlman and Kinsey Thobe. Gabel unofficially recorded 15 kills, followed by eight from Henschen and seven kills from Leffel. Strayer, however, pointed out Henschen’s play on Thursday. 

If the sophomore was not able to power her way past the Flyers’ blockers, she was able to place the ball in the tight corners on the back of the court — something the coaches recently worked with her on.

“We have been working with Carsyn on not being able to read her as much by just cutting the ball straight to the middle and she did so well today,” Strayer said. “We just practiced that yesterday and it looked like she had been practicing that all season. I am super proud of her tonight.”

But those three set the tone early in the first set.

Gabel spiked the ball to open the match and tallied another kill to get the serve back with a 15-10 lead. The Rangers leads pushed to 19-16 after a Leffel kill gave Haley Fledderjohann the serve and a kill by Henschen gave Carly Fledderjohann the serve up 21-17 as the Rangers offense did not allow the Flyers to serve much in the first set. With Fledderjohann serving, the Rangers eventually pushed the lead to set point on an ace and a kill by Gabel and took the first set on a serve hit out of bounds by Marion Local for a 1-0 set lead. 

Tied at 6-6 in the second set, Leffel’s shot was deflected out of bounds by the Flyers to give the Rangers the serve and Henschen and Leffel extended the lead with back-to-back kills to lead 9-6. From there, New Knoxville never lost the lead, pushing it to as much as seven, 18-11 after a Gretchen Dwenger kill, but Marion Local pulled within one, 21-20 as the Flyers’ blockers began to stymie some of the Rangers’ hits over the net. 

However, the Flyers did not do themselves any favors by ending the set with four errors to hand the Rangers a 2-0 set lead. 

In the fourth set, the Rangers led by as much as 18-13 following a Gabel kill, followed by another shot from the sophomore for a 21-16 lead as the Rangers cruised for the match win. 

While the offense earned the points, senior Megan Jurosic did her put to block or slow down Marion Local, including a block in the first set to push the Rangers’ lead to 9-6 and her thunderous kills throughout the second and third sets.

New Knoxville honored its seniors in cross-country and volleyball on Thursday. Jurosic, Carly Fledderjohann and Taylor Neuman had their final home regular season game played in a Rangers’ uniform, but New Knoxville now gears up the postseason where it is a No. 2 seed in the Bluffton University District and has a bye in a Division IV sectional final. The Rangers will host the winner between Cory-Rawson and Hardin Northern at 5:30 p.m. Oct. 17.

“We are excited for the postseason and we are really excited to show what we can do in the tournament,” Strayer said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we played Marion Local, but I told the girls that we needed to win this game so we could get the confidence going into the tournament.”