Eagles play smart in 3-game win over Jimtown

PLYMOUTH — In the midst of Thursday’s sectional quarterfinal, Culver Girls Academy teammates Katy Bjornson and Abby Jeffirs got a little friendly competition going.
The outside hitters had a contest to see who could rack up the most kills, and while Bjornson edged out Jeffirs 13 kills to 12, both were winners as they helped lead the Lady Eagles to a convincing three-set win over Jimtown, 25-20, 25-12, 25-14 at the Class 3A Plymouth Sectional.
CGA now moves on to play Plymouth — which beat New Prairie in four games in the late quarterfinal Thursday — in the second semifinal at 12:30 p.m. Saturday following a match between defending champion Mishawaka Marian and St. Joseph’s at 11 a.m. with the championship slated for 7 p.m. later in the day.
“Katy is usually our kill leader, but I told Abby tonight she needed to hit some more lines,” said CGA Head Volleyball Coach Matt Boland. “At one point she said ‘Coach, I think they’re there to block me,’ and I just said ‘I believe you can hit the ball through that block or use that block.’ I feel like really in the second set she really stepped it up and believed it, hitting for the zones that we were trying to hit. I think that’s the key for us is to be smart with our hits. Katy as well, but I think Abby really did an outstanding job tonight of mixing up her attacks and making good use of the tip when it was appropriate.”
Jeffirs’ use of the tip was characteristic of CGA’s attacking in general against Jimtown as the Eagles relied more on accurate offspeed attacking rather than powerful hits on their way to the win.
“I think that was the key to our hitters tonight. I don’t know that we hit our best attacks, our hardest hits all the time, but I know that they hit the zones that we practiced, and we felt like were the best places to go with the ball,” said Boland.
“I think we’re a reasonably talented team, but I think the real strength of our team is learning from our mistakes and trying to execute smart volleyball.”
The Eagles also used a strong service game, led by Emily Gilland’s five aces, to keep the Jimmies off balance and make some big runs, including a 10-0 start to game 2.
“Emily has been a team leader for us all year, and she’s led us in aces for the whole season,” Boland said. “She really stepped up tonight. She was hitting zones that I called really well. We had beaten Jimtown before so we had some ideas about where we wanted to try and exploit serve receive. I think she led the way both as a senior on the team and as our serve leader and kind of setting the tone for serving them tough tonight.”
Gilland also led her team in setting with 41 assists, while Bjornson finished with a team-leading 17 digs, and Jeffirs put 13 to target in a balanced effort for CGA. Middle hitter Torrie Christlieb also had a strong all-around match with seven kills, seven blocks and a pair of aces as the team moved to 25-6 on the year.
The Eagles are facing an unknown opponent in Plymouth at Saturday’s semifinals, but they’re excited to be in the hunt for a championship and looking forward to a competitive match.
“Going into the semifinals, our goal is going to continue to focus on our volleyball and every person on the team doing their job and giving 100 percent.,” said Bolland. “I think regardless of who we play, it’s going to be an outstanding match because I think both of these teams are great teams. But I’m excited to play some good volleyball. I think the team as a whole believes that playing volleyball well is fun, and obviously we hope to win, but just playing great matches is a whole heck of a lot of fun when you’re playing good volleyball.”
JIMTOWN 0 (25-20, 25-12, 25-14)
At Class 3A Plymouth Sectional
CGA stats
Kills: Katy Bjornson 13,  Abby Jeffirs 12, Torrie Christlieb 7
Aces: Emily Gilland 5, Christlieb 2
Assists: Gilland 41
Digs: Bjornson 17, Jeffirs 13, Andrea Lin 12
Blocks: Christlieb 7, Emily Rich 4, Jeffirs 2, Bjornson 2, Jamie Madison 2
Record: Culver Girls Academy 25-6