- Val T.
Playing against friends, Borges leads Pioneer past Caston
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ROYAL CENTER – For Pioneer junior Brooklyn Borges, playing against her friends at Caston is not a bug. It’s a feature.
Borges had 11 kills, three blocks and two digs to lead the Lady Panthers to a 25-15, 25-12, 25-21 win over the visiting Lady Comets Thursday.
Mackenzie Rogers added nine kills and 15 assists, and Elizabeth Rance added eight kills and five digs.
Caston led 20-19 in the third set after a Macee Hinderlider kill, but Pioneer scored the next five points. Rance had a kill off the block, Rogers went crosscourt from the opposite side, Borges had a kill, Rogers had a kill off the block, and Kylie Attinger got it to match point with an ace.
A service error staved off one match point, but Borges ended the match with another kill.
“I just like how the whole team played together tonight,” Borges said. “We all have been working really well at doing our own spots and getting the job done, and I’m just really proud of us as a team.”
Borges plays for the Empowered Volleyball Academy’s 16 Elite Red club team based out of Fort Wayne during the offseason. Borges also plays basketball for Pioneer, which means she balances club volleyball season when it starts in the middle of basketball season.
Club volleyball season lasts until June. Rogers also plays for Empowered. Once club season ended, Borges took a break and started up again when practice started on Aug. 1.
Due to her Empowered experience, she said she feels more comfortable all around the court now. She said she used to be “terrified” to play the back row but was comfortable enough to get digs there on Thursday.
Her progress as a player has impressed coach Rod Nies.
“She’s become quite a middle for me,” Nies said. “She’s one of the best middles I’ve ever had. I think she can play at an extremely high level at the next level. I think she could possibly play small D1, I think, if she really pushes herself. But she’s got to have the drive.”
Borges said that Caston libero Addison Zimpleman is her “best friend until the day I die.” She said the competition is intense but returns to normal once the sporting event stops. Zimpleman also plays basketball at Caston, so the competition covers multiple sports.
“I love her so much,” Borges said. “She’ll always be my best friend, but when it’s on the court, I want to beat her to death. But I love her.”
Borges grew up in the Caston school district. Her older sister Ally also grew up in the Caston school district but was later an all-conference softball player at Rochester.
“I just felt like academically, I was just better here than I was there, and my sister had transferred to Rochester when she was at a young age, and I just thought it was best for me, and it proved me right clearly,” Borges said.
Said Nies: “There’s a big rivalry just between her and the rest of that team.”
The win seemingly puts Pioneer a step ahead in the conference race. Pioneer has won 24 consecutive conference matches. Their last loss in a conference match came at North Judson on Sept. 17, 2018.
“I look for (Caston), us and Triton to be the three big boys on the block, so to speak,” Nies said. “But you’ve got to be ready to play.”
Caston coach Gina Hierlmeier said her team’s effort improved in the third game. Two of Caston’s three losses are against the Lady Panthers. They also lost to Pioneer in a best-of-three set match in the Cass County Tournament final on Aug. 13.
“I thought the third game, we gave a lot of effort,” Hierlmeier said. “I actually thought our first game was better than our second. I felt like in our second game, we were a little flat, a little defeated, a little lost in moments. I’m not sure what was going on. A lot of that is on me. I need to have us better prepared and play at a higher level more consistently.”
Caston continues to get attacks from middles like Bailey Harness and Alexa Finke and opposite side hitters like Hinderlider, Isabel Scales and Ali Paul. Setters Delaney Lowry and Annie Harsh set them up. Zimpleman and Kinzie Mollenkopf anchor the back row.
Hierlmeier said that her team is plenty athletic. Nies admires Caston’s defense, but he also said the constant attacks from Borges, Rance, Rogers and Weisenburger mean that the power of percentages favor the attacking team over the digging team.
Said Hierlmeier of Pioneer: “They’re just good. They’re good at a lot of things they do. They stay in system a lot. Their setter or setters drive a lot of what they do. When you can keep the ball in system and be effective offensively, it makes it hard to defend.”
Pioneer def. Caston, 25-15, 25-12, 25-21
Adeline Cripe – 5 aces, 1 assist, 8 digs; Blair Grigsby – 3 kills, 7 assists, 9 digs; Brooklyn Borges – 11 kills, 3 blocks, 2 digs; Kaitlin Weldy – 10 digs; Keirsten Nies – 1 ace, 1 block, 12 assists, 3 digs; Kylie Attinger – 1 ace, 2 kills, 1 block, 5 digs; Elizabeth Rance – 1 ace, 8 kills, 5 digs; Mackenzie Rogers – 2 aces, 9 kills, 15 assists, 4 digs; Mandee Weisenburger – 2 aces, 7 kills, 2 blocks, 4 digs
Watch Pioneer vs Caston Volleyball match here: