by Bruce Strand, Sports editor
The Zimmerman Thunder overcame a pair of furious streaks by St. Cloud Cathedral and beat the Crusaders 25-18, 25-20, 23-25, 25-18 at home on Tuesday evening.
Powerful serving by Nikki O’Keefe sparked the win that put the Thunder in position to challenge for conference lead next Tuesday when first-place Albany comes to town. Albany is 6-0, Zimmerman 6-1, Cathedral 5-2 and Mora 4-2 at this point.
Cathedral scored 11 straight points to take a 13-8 lead in game two but the Thunder recovered 25-20. The Crusaders trailed 15-2 in game three and, about to be swept, roared back to knot the game at 16. This time they pulled it out 25-23, with Rylee Medelberg blasting aces for the final two points.
“Cathedral is a good team. They keep fighting,” said Zimmerman coach Rita Belka.
O’Keefe logged nine aces, 12 kills and 12 digs. The senior co-captain’s serving both started and finished the job for the Thunder. She served eight points in a row with three aces for an 11-2 lead in game one. In game five she went to the stripe with the score 19-18 and rattled off the last six points, two of them aces.
Brooke Borchardt, 6-foot-1 junior using finesse more often than power, led with 19 kills and seven kill blocks. Amber Magnuson notched eight kills and seven blocks, Gabby Antolak seven blocks, Cassie Ortberg and Morgan Feldick nine digs each, and Amanda Meleen 40 assists and seven digs.
During the Thunder rally from a 13-8 deficit in game two, Antolak supplied one crucial point to help them take the lead as her quick reflex on a bad pass from the back kept the play going and she followed with a kill block moments later.
“Great team win,” said Belka, adding that Morgan Inman, Bailey Bircher Keyme and Bailey Bright made good contributions off the bench. Morgan Feldick served for five straight points that opened an 18-13 lead in game four.
Medelberg, 5-foot-11 sophomore, made 12 kills for Cathedral (7-6 overall), and Jenna Januschka, 5-foot-11 senior, added 10 kills along with 21 digs. Medelberg and Sara Windschitl made three solo blocks each and Sophie Harris 24 assists.
The Thunder improved to 14-3, with 12 wins in their last 13 matches.