MARSHALL - After a disappointing showing at the Southwest Minnesota Challenge over the weekend, the Marshall Tigers were back in their home gym Tuesday night looking to hand South Dakota's second-ranked team, Sioux Falls Roosevelt, its first loss of the season.
Minnesota's top-ranked team in Class AA achieved just that in an thrilling four set win over Roosevelt with scores of 25-20, 23-25, 26-24 and 27-25.
"This is a good team that we played tonight," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "It's a quality win against a good team. It's great to see our kids come out and play with that kind of energy. I think there were times that was probably lacking this weekend."
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall’s Sydney Griffin caroms the ball off of Sioux Falls Roosevelt’s Maggie DeJong in the third set Tuesday night in Marshall. The Tigers defeated the previously unbeaten Rough Riders in four sets.
The Tigers flew out to an early 8-4 lead on the back of four Kenzie Beekman kills. Roosevelt responded with a 4-0 run that ended on a kill from Marshall middle hitter Emma Doyle.
Following Doyle's kill, the Tigers continued to control the set and extended their lead to 16-12 following an extended rally that featured four digs by libero Hannah Bennett and ended with another kill by Beekman. Marshall outscored the Rough Riders 9-8 down the stretch and closed out the first set on a Sydney Griffin kill.
Marshall and Roosevelt went back and forth early in the second set, with neither team able to pull away. Trailing 14-12, Roosevelt went on a 6-0 run to take a late advantage in the set. The Tigers would not lead the set again as Sioux Falls managed to keep at least a point ahead.
Over the last seven points it became clear that the length of the Rough Riders at the net was starting to impact Marshall's play, particularly in the waning stages as 6-foot-2 sophomore hitter Tagyn Larson carried Roosevelt with three consecutive kills to end the set. Larson was part of a trio of 6-foot-plus hitters for Roosevelt with 6-foot-1 Ashley Wilson and 6-foot Maggie DeJong.
"Their athleticism and their size can really give people trouble," Westby said. "We tried to find ways to neutralize that and there were times when we did and times when we didn't. And when we didn't it was really tough treading."
Marshall's troubles in the second set could also have been the result of fatigue after playing five matches over the weekend.
"We just didn't have as much energy in the second set as we did in the others," Griffin said.
The Tigers appeared to have their legs back early in the third set as again they jumped out to a lead, this time 8-5. Roosevelt stormed back, however, using a 7-1 run to lead 12-9 and forcing Westby to use a time out.
Marshall went on a 6-2 run out of the timeout to regain the lead. The teams traded points until the set was level at 20. A kill by Larson and a Tiger error gave Roosevelt a two-point lead and led to another Marshall time out.
Roosevelt served into the net following the break to send the ball back over to Marshall, who outscored Sioux Falls 6-2 to the finish. The set ended on a Beekman kill, her eighth of the set.
Beekman had 28 kills for the match, tops for the Tigers, and showed a resiliency when the situation was dire to inspire her team towards victory. Her ability to find the floor proved vital for the Tiger's who did not have their best night defensively.
"It was a great performance," Westby said. "(Beekman) was jumping three or four inches higher and going over the top of people at times. I thought she did a nice job. She went away from that after a while and just kind of put balls in places where they weren't and that became effective for her as well."
Beekman continued to roll in the fourth set, using four kills to propel the Tigers to an 9-1 lead. Roosevelt fought back to trail 12-11, but Griffin took over where Beekman left off.
Behind a kill and two aces from Griffin, Marshall stretched their lead to 20-12. The Rough Riders would not go away quietly as a 7-0 run brought the score to 20-19. Roosevelt would tie the game at 21 and 23, before taking a 25-24 lead late.
But Griffin refused to see her team let the match slip away and scored two of Marshall's final three points on kills, including the match winner.
Her 12 kills were second best on the team, but she was tied for a team best in three other categories. Her three serving aces and 20 set assists equaled team high's from fellow setter Rachel Sanow, while her three ace blocks tied her with Callie Graff for the team lead. Griffin was also second on the team in digs (13) behind Hannah Bennett's 30.
Griffin's versatility adds another dimension to the Marshall offense, as long as Griffin involves herself in the attack.
"Sydney can really be a tough player to deal with offensively," Westby said. "We just need more consistent play from her at the net. She's a very good attacker. We need her to attack like that all the time, not just at the end of sets."
For the Tigers (7-2 overall), the victory over Roosevelt helped remove the bitter taste of defeat that had lingered from the weekend.
"We were determined to play as a team and (win) together," Beekman said.
It also added a boost of confidence heading into Thursday's Southwest Conference opener against sixth-ranked Jackson County Central.
"If we all play well, we can all do what we need to do," Griffin said.
"JCC's a very good team," Westby added. "A little bit different than the team we faced this evening, but they have no apparent weaknesses."
Adding an interesting subplot to Thursday's match will be Beekman's quest for 1,000 career kills. After her output on Tuesday, she needs just eight more kills to reach the milestone. But when asked what it would mean to record her 1,000th kill against a conference and section rival, Beekman deferred.
"I just want to beat Jackson," she said. "That's it."
SF Roosevelt20 25 24 25
Marshall25 23 26 27
Serving (good-att-aces): Maci Louwagie 23-23-2, Rachel Sanow 16-17-3, Sydney Griffin 11-11-3.
Kills: Kenzie Beekman 28, Griffin 12, Angela Tauer 6, Emma Doyle 5.
Digs: Hannah Bennett 30, Griffin 13, Steph Baker 11.
Set Assists: Griffin 20, Sanow 20, Doyle 3, Callie Graff 3.
Blocks: Griffin 3, Graff 3, Louwagie 2.