MINNEOTA - It always felt closer than the score read, as the Minneota Vikings swept the Murray County Central Rebels 25-16, 25-19, 25-21 Tuesday night in Minneota.
Both teams looked sluggish at the onset, but it was the Vikings who shook off the rust first in the first match of the season for both teams.
Errors led to an early 4-0 hole for Minneota, playing without libero Kelsey Hennen (who graduated last spring) for the first time in a half-decade. It was Hennen's sister, Molly, who got the Vikings on the board with a ferocious kill to make the score 4-1. It the first of 10 kills on the night for the outside hitter, who also led the team in serving (19-of-19) and digs (16)
Photo by Travis Andries
Murray County Central’s Macy Halbur, right, is blocked by Minneota’s Hannah Prellwitz, left, and Karissa Bot during the Vikings’ 3-0 sweep of the Rebels Tuesday night in Minneota.
Minneota ultimately took the lead in the set at 8-7 as both teams began to work past opening match jitters. The two teams would go back-and-forth on scoring, with the Vikings taking a slight edge as the set wore on.
With the score at 14-11, Hennen and Taylor Reiss began to take over. The Vikings would outscore MCC 11-5 over the rest of the set, including a 5-1 run at the end. Back-to-back aces from Karissa Bot would close out the set for the Vikings. Bot finished the match with three aces on 9-of-9 serving.
The tables appeared turned during most of the second set. Minneota blasted its way to an early 6-1 lead, but they would be trailing 8-7 at the 15-point mark.
The Vikings were unable to right the ship and with the score 10-8, Minneota head coach Stephanie Hennen called a time out.
"I said 'You think because you're Minneota that no one is going to throw up a block at you? you think they're just going to give that to you.?'" Hennen said. "We just have to do some things ... at this point we'll take the win, but we have a lot of room for improvement," Hennen added.
MCC added two more points after the timeout before the message began to stick for the Vikings.
Minneota rallied from 12-8 to cut the MCC lead to one at 18-17. The Vikings added six more points before the Rebels could put the brakes on a 13-3 run for Minneota, which went on to win the set 25-19.
During Set 3, Minneota and MCC continued their back-and-forth play until the Vikings broke out for a 17-13 lead. With the end in sight, the Rebels refused to back down, going on a 7-3 run and impressing their coach, Kati Bobeldyk.
"I'm really proud of them," Bobeldyk said. "They never gave up, even if we were down, no matter what the gap was, they kept fighting and kept the energy up.
"That's tough to do when you get down, especially down two games to none."
Hennen, though tempted, deferred from calling a timeout and opted instead to let her girls play through the MCC run.
"I thought about it (with the score tied at 20), but said we'll just see what happens."
The gamble paid off. With the score tied at 20, Minneota notched two points and forced a timeout by the Rebels. The Vikings were unfazed and ended the match on Taylor Reiss' 21st kill of the night with a final score of 25-21.
The fight shown by the Rebels also impressed the Vikings' head coach.
"Take nothing away from (MCC), they were scrappy," Hennen said. "They threw arms out, they had a lot of blocks, they got a lot of touches on the ball. They had us running all over the court."
Hennen, though happy with the win, was not pleased with her team's performance.
"We'll be better next time. That's what I'm telling everybody," Hennen said. "We need to get comfortable playing with each other, we need to get comfortable in the spots that we're in."
For the Rebels, who boast a roster full of upperclassmen, the match was a chance to get experience against a quality opponent as they look to improve on their second-place finish in the Red Rock Conference in 2011.
"It's nice to get a game under our belts," Bobeldyk said. "Now we know what we need to work on and defense is going to our number one."
Next up for the Vikings (1-0 overall) is a matchup Thursday against the Pipestone Arrows in Pipestone. The Rebels (0-1) play Russel-Tyler-Ruthton in Tyler on Thursday.
MCC16 19 21
Minneota25 25 25
MCC Individual Statistics
Serving (aces): Taylor Schreier 4.
Kills: Kristi Bose 7.
Digs: Schreier 15, Bose 10, Jade Giese 10.
Set Assists: Paris Thomas 7.
Blocks: Bose 5.
Minneota Individual Statistics
Serving (good-att-aces): Molly Hennen 19-19-1, Faith Laleman 14-14-2, Karissa Bot 9-9-3.
Kills: Taylor Reiss 21, Hennen 10, Bot 5.
Digs: Hennen 16, Laleman 14.
Set Assists: Megan Larson 35.
Blocks: Reiss 1.