The Northeast Community College volleyball squad teamed up against Ellsworth Community College on Wednesday night.
With the entire roster contributing, the Hawks dominated the Panthers during a three-set sweep by scores of 25-7, 25-13 and 25-11.
Nonstarters Jessica Borg, Mattalyn Boning, Caitlin Kumm, Julia Eskens, Jessi Brester, Megan Wehrbein and Morgan Haner all got a chance at extended floor time, and all seven made significant plays to help Northeast improve to 8-6 on the season while preparing for a four-match weekend trip to Kansas City.
“It was nice to be able to get everybody in there and see a little bit of what they can do outside of practice, and they did do a nice job,” Hawks coach Amanda Schultze said. “And the other girls got excited for them, and that’s always good to see.”
Jamie Bonifas spent much of each set at the service line. She served 13 straight times in the first set, including two aces, while her teammates pounded seven balls to the floor and forced Panther coach Sara Jesse to use two timeouts in unsuccessful attempts to break Northeast’s momentum. Three of those kills and a block came from Elley Beaver en route to a 13-0 lead, but while the Hawks’ offense continued, the defense made sure Ellsworth never got established.
The Panthers didn’t record a block until Northeast led 18-4 and didn’t manage a kill — their only one of the set — until the score had reached 20-6. Meanwhile, the Hawks were tough at the net, with Hannah Heppner adding two of the team’s four blocks.
Haner’s first trip to the service line resulted in an ace to add to the lead, and Kumm’s ace closed out the 25-7 first-set victory.
“We try to mix (teams) up in practice a little bit, but when we do six-on-six, it’s pretty even,” Schultze said. “It’s nice to see, and I know I can send whoever in there and they can do a good job.”
In the second set, Northeast again pulled away behind Bonifas’ serves, including another ace. With Eskens serving back-to-back aces, the Hawks increased their lead to 9-4 before a quick-tip kill by Bonifas and two kills by Heppner and another by Eskens increased the lead to 15-6 and sparked another series of points by the Hawks. Those points included three kills by Brester before Borg’s kill finished off the 25-13 win.
Eskens added two more kills to open the final set and partnered with Elizabeth Christensen on a block, while a kill by Brianna Bauer created a 7-0 Northeast lead.
Later, as the Hawks steadily pulled away, Boning recorded her first of two kills and Kumm served another ace before back-to-back kills by Bauer and another by Christensen eventually closed out the set and the match with a 25-11 third-set win.
In all, the Panthers — who slipped to 1-13 on the season with only one sophomore — added just nine more kills in the final two sets for a total of 10 in the match.
“I thought our players all stepped it up. No one seemed to get nervous when they got out there,” Schultze said. “I think they all did a good job and supported each other. It’s always kind of hard to play a team like that and have high energy, but I thought our bench did a good job of keeping that energy and giving it to the players on the floor.”
On Thursday, Northeast will leave for Kansas City, where the Hawks are scheduled to play four total matches.
“We’ve got two games on Friday and two on Saturday — all pretty good teams,” Schultze said. “I think we’ve made good progress since the beginning of the season. That first weekend we messed with the lineup a little bit, and it’s evident that I still have a lot of options, which is great but still makes it hard to make that final decision of who’s starting and who’s not.”
“I think we found a rotation that really meshes well together and knows each other and how they’re going to play,” she said. “You’ve got to be able to trust those people all the way around you, but tonight proved we have depth.”
Statistically, Beaver and Bauer each recorded six kills to lead Northeast, while Beaver and Heppner contributed two blocks each. Bonifas totaled five aces, with Kumm and Eskens each adding two. Josie Sanger and Bonifas finished with 13 and 10 digs, respectively. Bonifas also led the Hawks with 25 assists and Sanger added five.
Northeast def. Ellsworth
25-7, 25-13, 25-11
? NORTHEAST COMMUNITY COLLEGE (8-6): Jessica Borg 1k, 1d; Jamie Bonifas 2k, 25s, 5a, 10d; Mattalyn Boning 2k, 1d; Caitlin Kumm 2a, 6d; MaKayla Davidson 1a, 2d; Julia Eskens 3k, 2a, 2d; Jessi Brester 3k, 1d; Carly Hirsch 3k, 1b; Caitlin Orton 2k, 1d; Elley Beaver 6k, 1s, 3d, 1b; Megan Wehrbein 1a, 2d; Hannah Heppner 4k; Liz Christensen 2k, 4d; Morgan Haner 2s, 1a, 4d; Brianna Bauer 6k; Josie Sanger 5s, 13d.