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VOLLEYBALL

Columbus closes with payback over Fremont at home invite

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Addi Johnson

Columbus High sophomore Addi Johnson winds up for a shot between two Fremont defenders on Saturday at home. Johnson led the Discoverers with 13 total kills in three matches.

Hosting a home invite that included the No. 1 and No. 3 teams in the state plus another that had started 6-0 left Columbus High volleyball with an uphill climb on Saturday at home.

And, to be sure, it was exactly that early on. But following a pair of two-set losses, CHS ended the day on a high note by beating rival Fremont and handing the Tigers their third straight loss on the day. Fremont came in 6-0.

Columbus lost to No. 1 Elkhorn South in its opener 25-9, 25-16 and fell to Lincoln East (6-5) by scores of 25-7, 25-18 before recovering for fifth place and wins over Fremont of 25-17, 25-20. The Discoverers had just been defeated by the Tigers 11 days earlier in three sets, had lost the last five to their rivals to the east and hadn't won in the series since 2015.

Columbus is 4-6 ahead of a week that includes a rematch with Lincoln East and a match against Lincoln North Star on Tuesday and at Crete on Thursday.

"We knew it was going to be more than tough coming into today," coach Jeri Otten said. "Against Elkhorn South, I thought we played really tough; they're just so steady. Lincoln East, not so much. We played like we did against Grand Island where it was, make a nice play then make an error. But it was a good sign that we took a couple losses and came out and still found a way to get a win."

Elkhorn South held Columbus to just seven kills on 75 swings. Sophomore Addi Johnson led the way with five kills. The Discoverers hit negative in the first set then improved in the second but only to .103. Abby Loeffelholz had assists on 10 of those kills and an ace, and Claire Renner had 12 digs.

Columbus hit negative for the match against Lincoln East with just eight kills in 48 attempts and nine errors. Johnson was tops again with six kills. Loeffelholz had six assists, Alyssa Dorau and Renner had an ace and Renner had nine digs.

Everything turned around in the third match. Columbus had a much more balanced attack against Fremont that included 10 kills for Ellie Thompson, five for Josie Garrett and two for Johnson. The offense was still a little slow going in the first set but by limiting mistakes to just four total hitting errors and six service errors, CHS was the cleaner side and began to pull away.

The Discoverers led the early stages of the second set 8-4 but then fell into a back-and-forth affair after the Tigers tied it 8-8. It was 17-17 when a Johnson kill, attack error and Garrett kill, another attack error and another Garrett kill put Columbus ahead to stay. Thompson finished it off with her seventh kill of the set for the win.

Loeffelholz finished the match with 15 assists, Johnson had two aces and Logan Kapels had 11 digs.

Garrett was the expected top weapon coming into the season. She has the most experience of any hitter on the squad. But finding success as a team means locating a second and third option. Johnson's overall weekend plus Thompson's performance in the win over Fremont continued the trend Columbus has found in its wins.

"If we can't balance our offense, it's too hard," Otten said. "Without Addi or Ellie or others, then we've got to hit against four hands on the block. We've got to find a way to get a seam for the girls. We're much better when we can do that."

Nate Tenopir is the sports editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sports@columbustelegram.com.

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