NORTHROP - Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain's trident offensive attack proved enough to overpower Cleveland's 6-foot-2 middle hitter Taylor Holicky and her Clipper teammates on Tuesday night in Northrop.
Kristi Oberdieck and Rachel Shumski - the Knights' 5-11 twin towers - equally combined for 18 kills and a dozen blocks, while outside hitter Amber Schulz delivered eight kills to help the hometown lineup trip the visiting Clippers in a five-game Valley Conference clash, 25-19, 13-25, 23-25, 25-19, 15-9.
"Our hitters' height and reach, along with their ability to leap, really made it difficult for them (the Clippers) to hit around," said Martin Luther/GHEC head coach Paul Steinhaus, whose lineup generated 16 total rejections during the league showdown.
CONVERTED KILL — Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain hitter Kristi Oberdieck (8) smacks a set from Hunter Payne (middle) for a kill during Valley Conference volleyball action Tuesday night in Northrop. Cleveland setter Stephanie Holicky (left), along with the Knights’ Amber Schulz (14) and Kris Davis (right), watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Oberdieck and Shumski limited Holicky's hard-hitting ways to four kills during the Knights' 25-19 triumph in Game 1 before the Clippers' middle spiker unleashed seven of her match-best 21 kills to swing the momentum and a 25-13 Game 2 decision to the black-clad visitors.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, Holicky stepped on an opponent's foot and rolled her ankle during the fifth play of Game 3. Despite missing nearly an entire service rotation, the Clippers' main spiker returned to post five kills and two blocks to help the visitors transform a 20-13 deficit into a 25-23 comeback win.
"She (Holicky) told me to call a timeout and then she'd be ready to return to the floor," said Cleveland head coach Heather Smith. "She's a tough player, but she could barely stand on her ankle, let alone hit or serve."
After the initial adrenaline rush wore off, Holicky still managed to generate five kills during Game 4, but stonewall defense by Oberdieck and Shumski - combined with Hunter Payne's solid setting (five assists) and serving (5-for-6 for four points) - allowed ML/GHEC to recapture the momentum.
Shumski's pivotal sideout block rotated the Knights' sophomore middle hitter to the service area, where she delivered three clutch points with Oberdieck fueling the mini-run with a pair of echoing blocks en route to a 25-19 win.
Schulz and Shumski exchanged frontline firepower with Cleveland's Holicky and Amy Den Herder during the decisive fifth game to eventually produce a tie at 8-all.
An errant Clipper tip attempt caught the twine and landed on Cleveland's side of the court to place the serve in Shumski's capable and skilled hands.
Shumski lined home back-to-back aces before Oberdieck's block extended the Knights' edge to 12-8 and forced Smith to call timeout.
Oberdieck continued her smothering net coverage out of the break, creating two more points before the Clippers' Cassidy Kopet knocked down one of setter Anna Ely's team-best 24 assists for a sideout kill at 14-9.
Unfortunately for Cleveland, the next server sailed her attempt over the end line to close out the five-game slugfest in ML/GHEC's favor.
Payne distributed a match-best 26 set assists for the Knights, in addition to connecting on 18 of 20 serves for 12 points.
Taylor Holicky topped all servers by completing 22 of 24 attempts for 17 points to complement her 21 kills and four blocks.
Ely connected for nine points behind 17-for-18 serving for the Clippers, Den Herder contributed 10 kills, while Stephanie Holicky doled out 12 set assists.
Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain (3-12-3, 2-6 Valley) travels to Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial next Tuesday night.
Cleveland (5-10, 4-4) plays host to Janesville-Waldorf-Pemberton on Monday night.
Martin County West 3, Nicollet 0 - The Mavericks blanked the Raiders, 25-15, 25-10, 25-14, during Valley Conference volleyball action on Tuesday night in Nicollet.
No individual statistics were available at press time.
Martin County West (19-5, 7-0 Valley) plays host to St. Clair in a conference match at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night in Trimont.
Nicollet (4-10-1, 2-4 Valley) travels to Madelia for a conference match at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night.