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Machacek powers Bucs’ volleyball to sweep of Jaguars

ANGLED TIP — Blue Earth Area hitter Alicia Machacek (7) tips the volleyball around a block set by Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman’s Mallery Geistfeld (far right) during nonconference volleyball action Thursday night in Blue Earth. The Bucs’ Brita Hougen (second from right), Eloise Blair (3) and Liz Beeler, along with the Jaguars’ Johnnie Zaharia (5), watch the play. (Photo by Greg Abel)

BLUE EARTH — Alicia Machacek returned from the injury list and powered the Bucs to a season-ending win.

Blue Earth Area swept the Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain/Truman Jaguars, 25-21, 25-9, 25-21, during a last-minute scheduled nonconference volleyball matchup Thursday night in Blue Earth.

Jaguar head coach Paul Steinhaus said it was a “mad dash” to schedule games for Thursday and tonight before the end of volleyball season Saturday. The Jaguars needed to reschedule after Martin County West had to cancel for COVID-19 concerns.

The Bucs ended their season with a record of 2-6, while the Jaguars (1-10) play their final game at 7:15 p.m. tonight in St. Clair.

In her first full game back, Machacek totaled six kills and an ace serve to help the Bucs’ efforts.

The teams split points and short runs during the opening sequences of Game 1, tying at 9 before BEA jumped ahead.

Miya Gustafson broke the tie with a service ace, then Machacek won a battle at the net for a kill before garnering another off one of Liz Beeler’s game-leading 26 set assists.

After a Jaguar timeout, Machacek earned her third consecutive point with a blocking ace, putting the Bucs ahead 13-9.

The Jaguars earned three of the next four points, ending with a Michaelah Petrowiak kill off a Johnnie Zaharia assist, but the Bucs started another run , building to a 20-13 lead after Beeler assisted Emma Langager, Eloise Blair and Machacek for kills.

Two Josie Clow service aces and a Ella Nagorske kill off a Kambria Steinhaus assist got the Jaguars within 20-18, but Beeler assisted Maci Frommie for one of her game-high nine kills to break the run.

Blair followed with a service ace off the top of the net, then Beeler assisted Machacek for the game winner.

“I think we’re fatigued,” Jaguar head coach Paul Steinhaus said. “… Our season has actually been pretty long all things considered and I think it’s taking its toll along with the ups and downs and external stresses. I think that’s showing.”

BEA wasted no time opening up a big lead in Game 2.

With Beeler behind the service line, two service aces, two Beeler-assisted Brita Hougen kills, a Blair-assisted Beeler kill and a Hailey Becker-assisted Machacek kill put the Bucs ahead 8-0.

Back-to-back service errors put Hougen at the service line, where she hit an ace to put the Bucs’ lead at 11-1. Becker added two service aces, Blair hit a changeup serve that dropped for an ace and Gustafson hit three service aces to power the Bucs to a 16-point Game 2 win.

“We kept the pedal on the gas,” Nawrocki said about her team’s Game 2 performance. “They were able to get up big and they kept pushing to keep the lead.”

The Jaguars bounced back to start Game 3, with the teams swapping early points.

Nagorske assisted Petrowiak on three kills, while Petrowiak earned another on a contest at the net to put the Jaguars ahead 6-3.

Becker then served the Bucs to a 7-6 lead after Blair earned a kill and Beeler assisted Frommie for back-to-back spikes.

The teams traded points to a tie at 10, then Nagorske assisted Mallery Geistfeld before switching roles when Geistfeld assisted Nagorske to put the Jaguars back in front 12-11.

Hitting errors put the Bucs ahead 15-14, then Petrowiak earned a kill off a Nagorske assist before hitting consecutive blocking aces, putting the Jaguars up 17-16.

Beeler assisted Frommie on two kills and Blair hit a service ace to give the Bucs a 19-18 advantage before Gustafson served BEA to a 22-18 advantage.

Beeler assisted Hougen on consecutive points to bring the score to 24-20, then Beeler connected once again with Machacek for the match-winning kill.

“The girls did a nice job, even though I would like a little more communication, they did a nice job covering and picking each other up,” Nawrocki said. “Our goal was to finish strong every set and they did that tonight. We had some big service runs, which really helped out. We had a very balanced attack.”

Petrowiak tallied eight kills and three blocks, while Nagorske dished out 10 set assists. Kambria Steinhaus dug out eight spikes to lead the Jaguar defense.

Blair led the BEA serving efforts with three aces to complement a co-team high eight digs and seven kills, while Becker added two service aces.

Gustafson also dug out eight spikes, while Hougen totaled five kills.

Editor’s Note: The Fairmont Cardinals volleyball team travels to Pipestone today for a Big South cross-over match. The varsity competition begins at 4:45 p.m., followed by the B- and C-squad matches, respectively.

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