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Local Sports

Bolts blast Royals, win first postseason match

BAXTER — Senior Jordynn Wesselink and sophomore Amber Weltha have a little in-house competition going against each other this season.

They wanted the best for each other, but they also liked to be better than the other when it comes to individual statistics.

Wesselink told Weltha before Tuesday’s postseason opener that she wanted to match the number on her jersey for kills. Weltha responded by saying she was going for 22, one more than Wesselink’s 21.

Neither one reached 20 kills against Colo-NESCO during a Class 1A Region 3 first-round match, but the hitting duo was still dominant during the Bolts’ three-game sweep.

Wesselink finished with 16 kills, 11 digs and four aces and Weltha added 13 kills as Baxter advanced to Monday’s regional quarterfinals with a 25-10, 25-12, 25-12 home win.

“They have been doing that off and on all season,” Baxter coach Scott Ranck said. “We haven’t always been consistent with our passing. It was all clicking tonight. The good hits they had were also because we had good passes and good sets, too.”

The Bolts (13-13) defeated Colo-NESCO in straight sets in late September. Nearly three weeks later, Baxter was even better against the Royals the second time around.

“I was really nervous. I had to walk in and take a deep breath when I got here,” Wesselink said. “I knew we could do it, but sometimes you beat a team and they come back and beat you the next time. Upsets happen so you never know.

“We have taken teams lightly before. We came out strong tonight though. We played well.”

The Bolts never trailed in any of the three sets Tuesday.

Wesselink and Weltha got the scoring going with back-to-back kills and the lead grew to 10-2. Weltha had four kills and a block in the first 10 Baxter points. The sophomore already has 150 more kills than she had last season.

“I found my passion for volleyball again. Jordynn has helped me a lot, too,” Weltha said. “We push each other in practice. We both yell at each other when we miss a ball. It’s been a great motivator for both of us.”

The Bolts kept the pressure on the Royals (5-16) when senior Mary Schabilion got into the act at the net with a pair of kills. Pair that with a Sydney Schmidt kill and several errors by the Royals and Baxter led 20-7.

Baxter got on the board in the match with a 25-10 win.

“I feel like we have had times where we don’t play well in a particular game sometimes,” said Baxter senior libero Sailor Hinegardner, who finished with 11 digs. “That didn’t happen tonight. I don’t know what was different. We were just clicking.”

Wesselink shined in the second set. The Bolts got out to a 6-0 lead and then back-to-back aces by the senior made it 10-1. She tallied consecutive kills later in the frame to put Baxter up 17-9 and then another kill extended the lead to 21-10.

Weltha got the Bolts closer to a 2-0 lead with a kill at 23-12, and they eventually won 25-12.

“I get a little excited. I can’t contain my love for them,” Hinegardner said of Wesselink and Weltha. “I can tell when those two are going to put it down. I love those girls, and they hit it well tonight.”

The Royals started out well in the final set. Baxter broke up a 6-5 advantage with a 7-1 run that included kills by Wesselink and freshman Hallee Rainsbarger.

Senior Lexi Ewing served up an ace to push the lead 16-6 and then Wesselink and Weltha brought home the victory with a dominant finish. They had a combined four kills down the stretch to help Baxter complete the sweep.

“This is tournament time. Everyone is 0-0 and anything can happen,” Ranck said. “We just needed to stay focused. We worked hard on serve receive and really trying to hit the ball hard at the net. It was great to see the stuff we worked on in practice this week translate into tonight’s game.”

Ranck said his team had no problem staying focused despite the Bolts sweeping the Royals fairly easily earlier this season. Hinegardner said the team treated Tuesday like a normal match.

“We talked about it. We tried to treat this match like a normal game and not overlook anyone,” Hinegardner said. “They are a good team, and we knew we couldn’t take them lightly.”

The Bolts won their first playoff game as a program. They’ll try to get a second postseason win against another familiar opponent, GMG, on Monday.

Baxter swept the Wolverines (8-16) in late September, but two of the three sets were decided by two points.

“The win is big for us and our program, but we don’t want to stop here,” Ranck said. “We want to get a second one, too.”

Weltha and Wesselink combined for 29 of the team’s 40 kills, but Rainsbarger tallied four and sophomore Bekka Watt chipped in three. Schmidt dished out 27 assists.

Ewing was 14-of-14 in serves, while Schabilion was 17-of-19 and Wesselink hit on 13-of-15.

Baxter plays GMG at 7 p.m. Monday in Garwin.

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