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Patriots volleyball still working out early-season kinks

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Clarkson/Leigh volleyball

Clarkson/Leigh celebrates after a stuffed block on Sept. 6 against Wisner-Pilger in West Point. The Patriots are off to a 5-3 start this season.

WEST POINT - Clarkson/Leigh faced three conference opponents last week. On Sept. 6, the seventh-ranked Patriots squared off against No. 8 Wisner-Pilger at West Point-Beemer.

Clarkson/Leigh took the first set 24-17 behind nine kills and two aces from junior Chloe Hanel. In the second set, the Patriots overcame an early 6-1 deficit to lead 24-20. However, the Gators scored six consecutive points to force a decisive third set.

Clarkson/Leigh led the third set 16-15, but Wisner-Pilger took over the end of the match with the Gators tallying six kills, one ace and earning three points off Patriot attack errors.

"We started out really well. Wisner-Pilger just stepped up and we did not make adjustments that we needed to," Patriots head coach Becky Schneider said. "It was the typical stop talking. We broke down. We didn't hold each other accountable. Those are all crucial in order to succeed."

Hanel led the way with 17 kills, 15 digs, five blocks and two aces. Baylee Settje and Gracie Eisenmann posted eight and seven kills, respectively. Izzy Hollatz ended the match with 35 assists.

Defensively, Eisenmann dug 16 shots to lead the Patriots. Brynn Settje posted 15 digs. Ava Kasik and Cadence Indra ended with 11 and 10 digs, respectively.

Schneider has described the season so far as a rollercoaster as new players adapt to new positions.

"It's still early in the season," Schneider said. "We're still working out the kinks and it's just not going as smoothly as we would've liked."

Izzy Hollatz

Clarkson/Leigh setter Izzy Hollatz sets the ball for a pair of hitters in the middle of the floor on Sept. 6 in West Point. Hollatz leads the team in assists.

Hollatz has stepped in as the team's setter this season after playing defensive specialist last year. Hollatz leads the team with 195 assists.

Schneider said it's been a tough adjustment as she continues to build connections with the hitters.

"We're trying to form her (Hollatz) into getting those connections with our hitters now. It's been tough, but it's coming a long ways. She's just got to keep pushing."

As was the case last year, the attack is led by Hanel. The junior has recorded 100 kills through the first six matches. Defensively, she's recorded a team-high 66 digs and received the most serves on the team (86).

"We just need to get the ball in her hands every single time. She's our go-to and teams know that," Schneider said. "Occasionally, she will get blocked or dug, but that doesn't stop her from staying aggressive. We just need to be able to pass the ball in order to get her the ball."

Chloe Hanel

Patriots junior Chloe Hanel jumps to spike the ball on Sept. 6 against Wisner-Pilger at West Point-Beemer. Hanel tallied 17 kills in a three-set loss against the Gators.

Clarkson/Leigh followed the loss on Sept. 6 with a dominant win over Lyons-Decatur Northeast 25-6 25-5. On Thursday, it swept Pender in straight sets 25-16 25-17 25-18 to improve to 5-3 on the season.

The Patriots will face another stiff East Husker Conference opponent in Humphrey/Lindsay Holy Family on Thursday before heading to Stanton for a tournament on Saturday.

Schneider said it's important to be peaking at the right time and she's confident they'll get there.

"It's still early in the season, so we will push as hard as we can to improve. We want to be peaking at the right time. Conference is a good peaking moment and our conference is stacked with competitive teams and ranked teams for that matter." she said. "Everybody has a target on their back, so they'll be gunning for us just as much as we'll be gunning for them. Hopefully, we'll be peaking at the right time."

Sam Ficarro is a sports reporter with the Schuyler Sun. Reach him via email at SCHsports@lee.net.

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