Rangers Fueled by Electric Atmosphere in Five-Set Thriller

A devastating injury to a key player and a poor week of performances might plague any other volleyball squad; the ladies of Parkside aren’t just any other team. They were one set away at Cardinal Stritch from losing three straight matches, and they opened Friday night with the same struggles. It was the poise they’ve exemplified all year that earned the Rangers a five-set thrilling victory over Bellarmine.

UW-Parkside (5-2) (11-5) faced Great Lakes Valley Conference opponent Bellarmine University (3-3) (8-7) Friday night at DeSimone Gymnasium in Kenosha, WI. Backed by an animated crowd of the Parkside faithful on ‘Jersey Night,’ the Rangers translated the added energy into a much needed win.

“It means a lot to the girls having that kind of spirit in the stands,” said Parkside head coach Michele Benoit, in her second year at the helm.

Despite the fan support, service errors stifled Parkside’s attack early, as they suffered seven in the opening set. Tied at 16, the Rangers took the lead with sophomore Caroline Langer’s well-placed spike in the right corner. Following a timeout by the Knights, Bellarmine took control with three straight points. Down 24-21, the Rangers avoided the loss with three straight points of their own capped off by a long volley sequence and a Cassie Wilkens smash. Errors continued for Parkside however, and Bellarmine captured the opening game 27-25. Parkside’s Stacie Bower managed seven digs as Libero in the loss.

“We missed a bunch of serves that first game,” Langer pointed out. “Once we cleaned up our mistakes, everything fell into place.”

Parkside jumped out to a commanding 16-10 advantage highlighted by rifling shots from junior Addie Kramer; the outside hitter finished the night tied for a team high with 11 kills. After two service errors in the opening set, freshman Cayla Flood used an explosive jump serve to get Parkside on a 4-0 run. The setter had three service aces in the match. Limited mistakes combined with domination up at the net from senior Rachel Burmester’s seven blocks propelled Parkside to a 25-15 blowout in Game 2.

“Rachel stepped up big tonight,” said first-year assistant coach Jen Johnson. “We’ve been working on blocking all week in practice; Rachel and Adrienne [Uthe] really showed a lot of intensity.”

Seizing the momentum, UW-P was determined to take two straight games by getting off to a 19-14 lead. A block and kill by Bellarmine’s Krista Gibson energized her squad, as Parkside watched their lead evaporate. Tied at 21, a sensational dig by Bower set the stage for Kramer to finish off a cross-court kill to give Parkside the lead. Junior Courtney Stack delivered an excellent set to Wilkens, and Parkside closed out the 25-23 set win. Wilkens provided five kills as a key offensive contributor.

Plagued by errors yet again, the Rangers faced a 14-8 deficit early in Game 4. Outside hitter Emily Beckman got Bellarmine on a service run, and Parkside never kept pace. A 25-16 victory for the Knights sent the two squads to a fifth game. Beckman finished the game with four kills. Langer, Kramer, Burmester, and Uthe each had multi-kill games, but Parkside’s defensive effort lacked in the loss.

In Game 5, Parkside came out of the gate with remarkable execution, and a 6-0 lead. A combined block by junior Cassy Marx and Burmester deflected the ball deep into the back row and caught the end line to give Parkside a 10-3 advantage. Following a block by Gibson on Langer’s spike, Bellarmine completed a 7-0 run to notch up the set at 10. The Rangers sealed a match victory starting with a defensive effort from Langer that had the outside hitter flying into Parkside’s team bench to keep the ball in play. Burmester’s demolishing hit put away the 15-12 fifth-set win.

“We played great through stretches… had some trouble in the fourth game, and drilled them in Game 5,” Benoit said. “A couple of our themes are being flexible and being able to make adjustments, and we accomplished that tonight.”

Langer ended the night with a potent 11 kills, seven digs, and three blocks.

Featuring dual setters, Parkside’s Stack and Flood dished out 25 and 19 assists respectively. Bower was stellar on the defensive end shoveling out 28 digs.

Wilkens demonstrated veteran leadership, and put together an excellent performance with 10 kills, eight digs, and two blocks. Burmester and Marx combined for 16 blocks and 10 kills.

Parkside will host Northern Kentucky University for their weekend home finale Saturday, Oct. 10, at 2 PM. In their second straight conference matchup, Parkside is looking to snap NKU’s six-match winning streak. The Rangers remain home for a non-conference match against St. Xavier the following Tuesday, at 7 PM.

“There’s a lot of parody in our conference,” Benoit said. “Any team can win on any given night, and it’s really anyone’s conference for the taking.”

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