The Aitkin Gobbler volleyball team opened the shortened season Oct. 8, sweeping Park Rapids 25-15, 25-10, 25-10.
“It was awesome,” said coach Julie Ausmus. “Our kids played really well, passing was phenomenal and we seemed to get to every ball.”
“It was a total team effort.”
The Gobblers jumped out to a 7-0 lead in game one on an ace by Lydia Fellerman, blocks from Noelle Jones and Jessica Much, and four miss-hits by the Panthers.
Ally Ehnstrom also served for four points highlighted by blocks at the net by Jones and Rae Nyberg.
Kills by Teagan Piecek, Fellerman and Nyberg helped out the Gobblers. The Panthers made a run to 22-14, but missed a return.
Jones served an ace to end the game.
It was 1-1 in game two when Nyberg served five straight points with two aces, another block by Jones and a tip by Piecek, along with a bad return by Park Rapids.
It was 8-3 when Much served eight straight points, starting with a Fellerman kill to the corner and ending with a Piecek kill.
Park Rapids would not get close again, and two long returns gave the game to Aitkin.
Game three was close at 5-3, but the Gobblers took over with seven straight points off the serve of Much, Fellerman with a kill down the middle, Piecek a blast down the line and another Fellerman kill off a short set.
The Gobblers had some impressive stats. Jones led the way with nine kills, while Piecek added seven, Fellerman six and Nyberg five.
Ehnstrom had 26 sets, while Jones led in blocks with 6. Fellerman had four aces, and Pelarski led in digs with nine.
“I was really happy with the way we came out and took control,” Ausmus said. “This is a tough conference, and anytime you can get off to a good start that helps, we have eight seniors and they are real leaders and they showed that tonight.
“They play so well together and know where everybody is on the court,” she added. “It was a great win and I was happy that we got to have some fans in the stands as well.”
The Gobbler JV was also a winner. Aitkin will host Pequot Lakes at the Aitkin High School gym Oct. 15 at 7:30 p.m.
The Gobbler volleyball team has just 10 players on the varsity roster right now, but Ausmus has all returning players, a big plus in what will be a tough conference campaign.
“The girls are really playing well together already,” Ausmus said. “They are back in sync with each other. The veteran players are helping with the younger ones, even though they all have experience.”
The Gobblers finished at 12-14 last season, losing in the opening match of the section tournament, and are aware of the reputation of the league they play in.
“It’s a very tough conference year in and year out,” Ausmus said. “Ten of our 14 games are inside the Mid-State so we will have to be ready every night.”
Fellerman has been moved to middle hitter, and Nyberg is now an outside hitter. Both have transitioned very nicely, according to Ausmus.
The rosters includes Trista Brandt, Ehnstrom, Jones, Maddie Buisman, Sarah McMillan, Pelarski, Much, Piecek, Lauren Ratz, Izzy Long, Haley Van Santen and Madison Hamilton.
The coaching staff is a veteran one as well, as Ausmus is joined again this season by former long-time head coach Steve Michaletz.