RHS Lady Cardinals fall to LCC in a five-set thriller

Randolph — The improved Randolph Lady Cardinal volleyball team continues to make the right waves early in the season.

Even in defeat, the Lady Cardinals can make an impression after dropping an intense 3-2 (29-31, 25-23, 16-25, 25-20, 15-12) affair at Laurel-Concord-Coleridge last week.

“We had a really balanced attack on the night with a lot of hitters coming up with kills, both setters distributed the ball well, and we were digging the ball really well,” Randolph head coach Rob Engel said. “Our pursuit of the ball was the best we have seen in a long time.”

In the defeat, Keely Pinkleman had nine kills along with Bailey Beal while Jaiden Taylor and Abby Schmit both contributed seven each and Natalie Munter added six kills.

Beal and Schmit had six and four total blocks apiece and Pinkleman (15 digs), Gracie Eledge (13 digs) and Schmit (10 digs) anchored the back row.

Erin Engel finished with 18 kills while Schmit added 15.

“The hustle against LCC was maybe the best we have seen since I’ve been coaching. We really played great floor defense and got a lot of quality attacks,” Engel said. “We missed 11 serves which can cost you in a game where the margin is that close. We need to continue to work on our serve reception and getting balls to our setters.”

Taylor is one Lady Cardinal who perfectly personifies what the team is all about.

She is a returning all-conference middle blocker who was really excited about wrapping her career on the outside and swinging away as a terminator.

Then things changed.

“JT is really a natural pin hitter and we had plans to use her there this year but after Emmalee Harder was out with an injury, she volunteered to move to middle where she had been before,” Engel said. “She is a good power hitter but also is experienced now with making shots and finding holes in the defense. This year her back row defense has also been great, and we have played her more that way as well.

Taylor has really excelled in the early going, Randolph’s veteran coach said.

“She has really found another level this year and seems to be having a lot of fun on the court,” Engel said.

T a y l o r admits it was a bit of a downer to move back to the middle after getting hyped to pound from the pin.

“I am willing to do whatever it takes to make my team better,” Taylor said. “It takes a lot of watching film and figuring out what I need to change (to play outside). I have a bad knee and it’s hard on them to jump all the time being in the middle. I was kind of excited to be back in the middle because I am more comfortable playing there and had never played outside until this year. But I like hitting right side too.”

Taylor did learn a lot more about her shot options from the middle after seeing the attack options on the perimeter, including shots that angle more down the line.

She can also call teammate’s shots better after seeing the floor with a new pair of eyes.

“It’s the first time how I have noticed that line shots are a key factor and I am good at finding those holes,” she said. “Now when the setters go outside, I can call out the shots better. During our jamboree and I was right side and one of our middles were playing, I noticed shots she could take and when (Engel) switched me to middle I took those shots that I had seen were open.”

Taylor says she wants to hit more cross attacks coming off as a left-handed hitter since the availability of the left-to-right openings can be available based on how she is usually defended.

It’s all in the name of making Randolph become a better team.

“We just have a positive attitude coming into the game and no one is ever down on themselves,” Taylor said. “We click as a group and everything is just grooving. We are basically playing every game as our last because of corona, because we don’t know if will have a full season and the what ifs. Everyone is just playing their hearts out and just having fun with it.”

The Lady Cardinals played Ponca Tuesday and then play their home opener Thursday against Tri-County Northeast and Osmond in a triangular set to begin at 4 p.m.

“I am not sure what to expect out of Tricounty since it is a new cooperative, but I’m sure we will have to be ready to play our best, likewise with Osmond,” Engel said. “Osmond lost some key players to graduation from last year so it will be hard to scout, but we will need to be ready to go mentally.”

Randolph 31 23 25 20 12

LCC 29 25 16 25 15

KILLS Randolph - Keely Pinkelman, 9; Bailey Beal, 9; Jaiden Taylor, 7; Natalie Munter, 6; Abby Schmit, 5; Erin Engel, 3. Erica Wolfgram, 16; Kinsey Hall, 7; Megan Forsberg, 6; Mollie Schutte, 5; Berniece McCorkindale, 4; H. Christensen, 3.

ACE SERVES - Randolph - Erin Engel, 3; Gracie Eledge, 3; Natalie Munter, 2; Keely Pinkelman, 2. LCC - Kinsey Hall, 7; Erica Wolfgram, 4; H Christensen, 4; Berniece McCorkindale, 3; Paige Cook, 2; Megan Forsberg, 2.

BLOCKS - Randolph - Bailey Beal, 6; Abby Schmit, 4; Natalie Munter, 1; Jaiden Taylor, 1. LCC - H. Christensen, 3; Molly Schutte, 3; Kinsey Hall, 1; Berniece McCorkindale, 1.

DIGS Randolph - Jaiden Taylor, 15; Gracie Eledge, 13; Abby Schmit, 10; Keely Pinkelman, 8; Ariel Fye, 6; Natalie Munter, 5; Erin Engel,5; Bailey Beal, 2. LCC - H. Christensen, 15; Kinsey Hall, 15; Jordynn Urwiler, 11; Cassie Granquist, 11; Erica Wolfgram. 8; Megan Forsberg, 7; Kaylee Donner, 5; Berniece McCorkindale, 2; Paige Cook, 1.

SET ASSISTS Randolph - Erin Engel, 18; Abbie Schmit, 15; Natalie Munter, 3; Gracie Eledge, 1; Ariel Fye, 1. LCC - Kinsey Hall, 20; H. Christensen, 14; Megan Forsberg, 1; Cassie Granquist, 1; Mollie Schutte, 1; Erica Wolfgram, 1; Berniece McCorkindale, 1.

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