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Highland defeats Belmont in five-set thriller
Belmont VB Brook Knebel
Belmont senior Brook Knebel puts down a kill during the Braves loss to Belmont last Tuesday night.

     BELMONT — Belmont’s opportunity to win a second straight Six Rivers West volleyball match slipped away Thursday night against Highland.

     The visiting Cardinals overcame an 8–2 deficit in the fifth set to rally past the Braves for a 26–24, 17–25, 18–25, 25–17, 15–11 victory.

     After a Belmont missed serve made it 8–3 in the decisive fifth set, Highland junior Brooke Michek served up a pair aces during a nine-point service run that turned the Cardinals deficit into a 12–8 lead.

    The teams traded missed serves to make it 14–11 and a kill by junior Alyx Hach on match point gave Highland the victory. The Cardinals (5–8–1 overall, 3–4 SRW) also survived three straight game points and rallied to steal the opening set 26–24 with a five-point scoring run.

     Belmont (4–10–1, 1–6) held a 24–21 lead and had three chances to close out game one, but Highland junior setter Karen McMannes kept the set alive with a tip kill. The Cardinals tied the match at 24–24 with back-to-back points, then won it on back-to-back kills by senior Bailee Rose.

     Belmont also blew an early 12–4 lead in the second set, when Highland went on a 10–1 run to take a one-point lead at 14–13. But the Braves battled back to take a 21–16 advantage on back-to-back aces by senior Brook Knebel and won the set on consecutive kills by sophomore Kassandra Palzkill.

     Belmont dominated the third set after jumping out to a 19–9 to take a 2–1 lead in the match. 
Coach Michelle Wedig’s Braves held the lead for the early part of the set, but never by more than three points.

     Hach used a four-point service run to turn a 14–13 deficit into a 17–14 Highland lead. Michek served up last five points to allow Highland to tie match at 2–2 with a 25–17 win.

     Junior Caitlyn Gilbertson led the Braves with 12 kills and five blocks. Sophomore Briana Ernst added 11 kills and three blocks.

     Last Saturday the Braves went 2–2 and finished fifth out of six teams at the Mount Horeb Invitational. Belmont (4–10–1, 1–6 SRW) lost to the eventual champion and host Vikings in three sets to open the day 25–23, 16–25, 10–15, but bounced back with a 25–19, 22–25, 16–14 victory over Division 1 Madison East.

     The Braves were then swept by Delavan–Darien, 25–21, 25–20, in the final round of pool play action. Belmont wrapped up the tournament with another victory over East, 25–21, 25–20, in the fifth-place match.

     “I think the girls played really well Saturday,” said Belmont head coach Michelle Wedig. “They are improving a lot on things that we have been working on all season.”

     Gilbertson led the Braves with 25 kills, 12 blocks and 10 digs in four matches on Saturday. Ernst added 19 kills and eight blocks. Nikki Knebel passed out 55 assists and served up eight aces.

     The Braves travel Benton on Tuesday.

Highland 3, Belmont 2
(from Thursday, Sept. 24 @ Belmont)

Highland    26    17    18    25     15
Belmont     24    25    25    17     11
Belmont stat leaders
Kills: Caitlyn Gilbertson 12, Briana Ernst 11. Blocks: Gilbertson 5, Ernst 3. Aces: Nikki Knebel 4. Assists: Nikki Knebel 22. Digs: Maddie Rand 12.

Mount Horeb Invitational
(from Saturday, Sept. 26 @ Mount Horeb)

Championship — Mount Horeb def. Milton 25–20, 15–25, 15–13.
Third-place match — Sauk Prairie def. Delavan–Darien 25–19, 23–25, 15–13
Fifth-place match — Belmont def. Madison East 25–15, 25–18
Belmont match scores
Mount Horeb def. Belmont 23–25, 25–16, 15–10
Belmont def. Madison East 25–19, 22–25, 16–14
Delevan–Darien def. Belmont 25–21, 25–20
Belmont def. Madison East 25–15, 25–18
Belmont stat leaders
Kills: Caitlyn Gilbertson 25, Briana Ernst 19. Blocks: Gilbertson 12, Ernst 8. Aces: Gilbertson 10, Nikki Knebel 8. Assists: Nikki Knebel 55. Digs: Maddie Rand 43.