MARSHALL- Thursday night was a celebration of individual excellence and team perseverance for Marshall Tiger volleyball fans.
Tigers' junior Kenzie Beekman picked up career kill No. 1,000 during the second set of Marshall's four-set victory over Southwest Conference rival Jackson County Central. The Tigers won 18-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-23.
"We certainly didn't play with the same energy and focus early on that we did Tuesday night," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said, "and that's unfortunate. But then again, I think JCC had a lot to do with that. They really came in and played hard."
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall outside hitter Kenzie Beekman follows through after taking a swing during the Tigers’ 3-1 victory over Southwest Conference rival Jackson County Central Thursday night in Marshall.
The Tigers, ranked No. 1 in Class AA, trailed throughout the first set. JCC, ranked No. 6 in Class AA, jumped out to an early 4-0 lead and kept the Tigers an arm's length away on its way to a 25-18 win in set one.
"It was a tough match. I think we had a tough time getting into any kind of rhythm," Westby said.
After being bitten early, the Tigers woke up during the second set. The teams traded points to start, but Marshall ultimately pulled out to an 11-6 lead. For most of the set, setter Sydney Griffin and outside hitter Angela Tauer had done the bulk of Marshall's scoring. But leading 14-11, Beekman took center stage.
Her eighth kill of the match, for Marshall's 15th point of the set, was Beekman's 1,000th of her career. It was not terribly different than her previous 999 kills, an undiggable missile thundering inside your bones, and Beekman treated it likewise. No gaudy celebration, just a pat on the back for a teammate and back to the game.
Beekman would pick up four more kills in the set on the way to Marshall's 25-20 win.
She continued to find the floor in set three, picking up eight of her team high 24 kills during the set. Beekman also had 21 digs for the Tigers and five ace blocks.
Marshall controlled the second set taking leads of 6-2, 14-7 and 20-14. JCC cut the lead to 20-16, but the Tigers ripped off five consecutive points to end the set, capped off by a Maci Louwagie ace.
"I thought Maci Louwagie really battled hard for us," Westby said. "She wants this pretty bad, and you should as a senior."
Despite having a monopoly on the match's momentum, the Tigers found themselves trailing throughout much of the fourth set. JCC led 6-2 before the Tigers would go on a 10-3 run and force the Huskies to take their first time out.
During the run the Tigers found scoring from all over the floor. Louwagie had a kill, as did Griffin. Tauer had two of her six kills on the night during the stretch, and Callie Graff had one of her four ace blocks.
JCC responded with a 9-4 run of their own to take an 18-16 lead and it was the Tigers' turn to take a timeout.
Following the timeout neither team was able to immediately pull away, but trailing 22-20, the Tigers went on a 3-0 run to take the lead.
Marshall outscored JCC 5-1 down the home stretch to take the set 25-23, picking up three kills from Beekman and concluding the match on an ace block from Griffin. She would finish with five on the night, while chipping in with 14 kills and 22 set assists.
The Tigers (8-2, 1-0 Southwest Conference) have a week off before traveling to Windom on Thursday to face the Eagles, who finished third in the Southwest Conference last season.
The break will be welcome as it affords the Tigers a chance to catch their breath in the middle of a brutal stretch of competition.
"We're in a tough stretch here. We had our tournament last weekend, a very good (Sioux Falls) Roosevelt team on Tuesday, a very good JCC team tonight. Then we go to Windom on Thursday," Westby said. "And then we go to Apple Valley next weekend. Fortunately we were able to get two big wins this week against two very good teams."
Until that date with the 8-1-1 Windom Eagles, the Tigers will look to rediscover their passing game that has devolved in recent matches.
"We talked to our kids about let's use this week as an opportunity to get better at some little things that have maybe gotten away from us a little bit," Westby said. "We haven't passed as well as we did early on. And a lot of that has to do with the pressure that teams have put on. We need to get back to passing the ball well.
JCC25 20 16 23
Marshall18 25 25 25
Serving: Rachel Sanow 23-23-3, Kenzie Beekman 9-9-1.
Kills: Beekman 24, Sydney Griffin 14, Angela Tauer 6.
Digs: Hannah Bennett 29, Beekman 21.
Set Assists: Griffin 22, Sanow 20.
Ace Blocks: Beekman 5, Griffin 5, Callie Graff 4, Emma Doyle 4.