Posted On: 09/30/16 4:26 AM

MALCOLM – Even thought Malcolm and North Bend entered Thursday night’s match with a combined record of 33-1, both squads were looking to earn some respect in the loaded and crowded Class C-1.

Malcolm entered the night at 17-0 but is ranked #10 in C-1 and has eighth-highest wild card total in the class. North Bend meanwhile, at 16-1, came in unranked and in the 11th spot in wild card points.

After two highly competitive sets, Malcolm moved to 18-0 by handling the final two sets in a 25-21, 20-25, 25-19, 25-14 victory over North Bend. Creighton recruit Jaela Zimmerman was outstanding, finishing with 30 kills for the Clippers. On the other side of the net, Kristin Lux hammered home 25 kills. Both players are only juniors.

The downside to Malcolm winning its first 17 matches of the season without dropping a set, Clipper coach Amber Dolliver said, was not being certain how her squad would handle adversity. What her team showed Thursday night pleased Dolliver.

“We talk a lot about mental toughness. A team can’t throw something at us that we haven’t seen every day at practice, so a lot of it is just going back to fundamentals on our side of the court and focusing on what we need to do right,” she said. “It’s just that mental toughness. How strong are you going to be? You’re going to have to fight back and keep plugging away.

“They knew this was going to be a big game and they wanted to come out and prove to themselves that they have the capability of being a quality team in C-1.”

That mental toughness test came midway through the third set for the Clippers. When Brooke Fredrickson got a kill for North Bend to give the Tigers a 25-20 victory and even the match at 1-1, Malcolm had to recover from dropping its first set of the season. Instead, it was North Bend that came out on fire in the third set and the Tigers looked to be taking control of the match when an ace block from freshman Lauren Emanuel gave them a 12-6 lead.

From that point on, however, Zimmerman throttled it up a notch and took over. Her kill and ace serve started Malcolm on a 9-2 run that resulted in the Clippers taking a 15-14 lead on a kill by Chloe Schumacher. Malcolm never trailed the rest of the set as Zimmerman had six kills down the stretch, including the set-winner, to give the Clippers the 25-19 win and 2-1 advantage.

At times, Zimmerman was clapping and loudly calling for the ball before the pass was even on its way to the setter.

“She demands the ball when she is on the court but is also a team player,” Dolliver said. “You’ll see her clapping or yelling or screaming what she wants to hit so the setter knows that she’s the go-to option. If she can get the ball, we’ll give it to her.”

Malcolm never trailed in the fourth set to cap the victory.

Husker defensive specialist Hayley Densberger added 17 kills and 23 assists for the Clippers while Gracey England had 52 assists and Schumacher had nine blocks.