Huskies off to perfect start: Bridgewater-Emery sweeps home tourney

Bridgewater-Emery's Taylor Schallenkamp, center, hits a shot between a pair of Ethan defenders during the Bridgewater-Emery tournament on Saturday in Emery. (Jeremy Karll / Republic)

EMERY -- Bridgewater-Emery saw the camaraderie of its upperclassmen yield results in junior high and junior varsity, so the Huskies’ recent success hasn’t been a shock to those around the program.

The Huskies are a close-knit group that has never had trouble meshing together. During an offseason when COVID-19 limited the amount of people able to be in the gym at once, coach Mary Ernster feels her team’s closeness helped limit the effects of the unusual offseason.

Bridgewater-Emery returned six rotation players, and it looks the part of an experienced bunch fresh off the first state tournament appearance in program history last season. It is the only 11-0 team in Class B -- one of five remaining undefeated Class B teams -- and is ranked No. 5 in the latest prep media poll. As of Monday morning, its 46.000 seed points is second to only defending state champion Northwestern (47.375).

“I think a lot of people kind of thought we were going to have a little bit of a down year, or we weren’t going to be as good as we were last year,” Ernster said. “... I think as coaches and as a team, we thought we would be pretty good. I think it’s a little bit surprising for some other people outside of the program.”
The Huskies haven’t been able to replace the hitting power that left with the 2019 graduating class, rather rely more on finding the gaps in the defense.

Kerrigan Schultz leads the team with 172 assists and 23 aces, and despite playing on the right side and setting in the back row, has led the Huskies in hits in multiple matches. She also has 67 kills and 23 aces. Julia Weber has improved on her breakout sophomore season with a team-high 125 kills and Taylor Schallenkamp has put down 65 kills.


Chloe Schmitt (37 kills) and Morgan Uptagrafft (35 kills) have been positive additions to the rotation as middle hitters, as well.

“Neither of them are super power hitters, but both are really smart,” Ernster said. “They read the court really well, and they can find open places. Places where someone just isn’t and they can just put it there.”

The different approach has garnered early success, with Bridgewater-Emery defeating Class A McCook Central/Montrose and handing Corsica-Stickney its only loss to date.

At its home tournament on Saturday, the Huskies went 3-0, taking down Platte-Geddes, Ethan and Howard. They dropped the first set against Platte-Geddes and Ethan, but battled back to win both three-set matches. After Bridgewater-Emery won six of its first seven matches in straight sets, having to stave off defeat was a welcome sight.

“I think what I took away from the tournament was our mental toughness. Our mental game was really on showcase,” Ernster said. “... I think that does come from having a little bit of experience on our team playing varsity before this year. That mental toughness is huge. It has to be there later on down the road.”
It’ll be needed as early as Saturday when it hosts Class B No. 4 Chester Area (8-1) to round out a four-match week.

“They’ve had so much success in the past. They’re always good,” Ernster said. “... So for our girls, that game is huge. It’s going to be a big physical game because we’re going to have to play really well, but it’s also going to be a big mental game, too. And Chester probably holds that mental edge over us a little bit because they’ve been so good and they have such a winning tradition.”

Bridgewater-Emery is trying to build a winning tradition, too. It started by making the state tournament last year and has carried into a perfect start to the 2020 season. But for it to continue, Ernster just wants her team to keep working together -- the same quality that got it to this point.

“We have a really close-knit group of girls this year, and they always have been,” Ernster said. “Our juniors and seniors, they’re really good friends and they’re really good to each other. We’ve seen them have a lot of success even in junior high and through JV, so we knew when they got their time to play varsity, they would mesh really well together.”


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