Heidi Buxengard (left) and Nicole Ellingson set up a double block in season opening straight set victory over Schaeffer Academy.
Heidi Buxengard (left) and Nicole Ellingson set up a double block in season opening straight set victory over Schaeffer Academy.

It was Lions versus Lions as Spring Grove and visiting Schaeffer Academy opened the 2012 volleyball season on Aug. 28.

Unfortunately for the team that drove down from Rochester, the Spring Grove Lions woke up slowly, but hungry.

Spring Grove won the match in straight sets, 25-15, 25-9, 25-2.

"It was a slow start for us tonight, but we finished the match very convincingly," Spring Grove coach Kelsey Morken said.

The SG offense made 8 of their 12 hitting errors in the first set, but got on track in the second.

When the third set rolled around, hitting was not much of a factor. That's because sophomore middle hitter Samantha Bratland, who's also known for her softball pitching skills, decided to put on a serving demonstration. She served 23 times in a row, including 9 of her match-high 12 aces and no errors.

The run put Spring Grove up 23-0 before a net violation allowed Schaeffer to avoid a shutout.

Bratland wasn't the only hot hand from the line. All-SEC middle hitter Nicole Ellingson, a junior, served 16 for 16 points with five aces.

As a team, Spring Grove served 99% (72 of 73) with five players contributing a total of 21 aces. Bratland and Ellingson each scored 13 points. Ellingson was the only player to score in all three ways with 6 kills, 5 ace serves and 2 blocks.

Junior outside hitter Tara Solberg was the match kill leader with eight, but seven Spring Grove players recorded kills on the night.

Former defensive specialist Randi Mehus, playing at outside hitter in her senior year, had three kills and served 7 for 7 with one ace. All-SEC setter Addison Cross, also a senior, contributed 19 assists towards the team's 25 kills.

Spring Grove played without a libero, relying on two defensive specialists - senior Aryn Jahnke and sophomore Lauren Arneson.

Bratland's serving was not the only spark coming from the Spring Grove bench. In the second set, sophomore middle hitter Kailee Bjerke came in for two scoring blocks, and junior outside hitter Heidi Buxengard put away three kills. Outside hitter Aly Folz, a junior, also contributed a trio of kills.

This year is the second season since Schaeffer reinstituted varsity volleyball. The program is still searching for a win after a 0-14 campaign in 2011.

Shaeffer Academy had 10 ball-handling errors with six kills and nine misfires. Spring Grove blocked four kill attempts for scores.

"We are working hard to strengthen our serve receive and team defense," Morken said. With the tough Mabel-Canton Labor Day Classic tourney scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 1, the Lions are going to need all of their skills and stamina.

That marathon event had the team hosting morning matches versus Houston and Waukon before moving to Mabel to face Class AAA Brainerd, state-ranked Mabel-Canton and Rushford-Peterson. The opponent for the final sixth match was determined by results during the day.

The Lions returned to M-C on Sept. 4 for a conventional SEC meeting. All of these matches occurred after the Herald went to press on Friday night. Look in next week's paper for full coverage.

On Tuesday, Sept. 11, Hope Lutheran will visit the lady Lions.