TRACY - For the second match in a row, the Marshall Tigers' serving proved key to victory. Class AA's top-ranked team used a 10-1 advantage in aces to keep the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers on tilt and left Tracy with 25-17, 25-13, 25-11 win.
"Maci Louwagie had a good stretch there in the first set where she served tough," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "They had a hard time handling the ball, then Rachel Sanow in the third set really had them guessing. She had her serve working well. Serving is a big part of what we do and it needs to be a good skill for us."
Louwagie, one of a trio of Tigers with three aces, started the scoring Monday night with consecutive aces as part of a 4-0 opening run for the Tigers.
Photo by Travis Andries
Marshall’s Sydney Griffin, left, and Kenzie Beekman go up for a block during the third set of Marshall’s 3-0 victory over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Monday night. The duo combined for nine of the Tigers’ 15 ace blocks against the Panthers.
Marshall continued to a 9-5 lead before a slight Panthers' rally cut the lead to 9-8. But thanks to six of Kenzie Beekman's eight kills in the opening set, the Tigers outscored the Panthers 16-9 en route to a 25-17 win.
The set concluded on another weapon working for the Tigers against the Panthers, when Sydney Griffin stuffed the Panthers for her first of six ace blocks on the night. Largely a tertiary effect of their strong serving, the Tigers had 15 total ace blocks as opposed to just two for the Panthers.
"Our girls needed to realize we've been reliant on our serve receive," TMB head coach Katie Gervais said, "and Marshall is so tough on the serve that when we didn't have that or were a little out of system, we need to be better with our second or third touch. Not just little whacks at the ball."
In the second set, the hot hand passed to Hannah Bennett, who also had three aces on the night. All three came during Set 2, with the first capping off a 10-3 Tiger run to start. After the Tigers pulled away to a 20-12 lead, Bennett collected her next two aces back-to-back to help the Tigers reach set point. Griffin later followed a Marshall error by knocking down a kill, one of her nine on the night, to end the set.
The Panthers trailed by at least five points for a majority of the second set, as the Tigers managed to make the Panthers uncomfortable in their own house.
"We just felt like we were always on defense, we could never really mount an offense," Gervais said. "We were just always on our heels. They have such a nice offense that it's tough for us to get back into system. They're such a well-rounded team that it was tough to mount any kind of offense against them."
Though Beekman finished with 20 kills, the key to keeping the Panthers off balance was a healthy mix of contributions from several Tigers.
"I thought offensively we were able to get some other kids involved," Westby said. "Callie Graff has gotten more and more swings as we've gone on here. I thought Maci Louwagie had some good swings in the third set and wasn't rewarded for them. TMB did a nice job of digging."
Anna Peterson led the Panthers with 13 digs, while Kassidy Przymus dug up 11 balls for TMB.
After taking an early 3-1 lead in the third set, the Tigers struggled to pull away from the Panthers. Neither team was able to go on much of a run until Rachel Sanow took over serving for the Tigers with Marshall leading 12-8. Marshall would lead 20-9 by the time Sanow was done, as she recorded all three of her aces during the run.
Sanow finished the game with a team-best 15-for-15 serving and three aces. She also had 17 set assists, just one behind Griffin for the team lead.
The Tigers outscored TMB 5-2 to close out the match, finishing the third set as they had the second, with a Griffin kill.
After defeating Windom on Thursday, the Panthers were understandably disappointed with their result against Marshall on Monday. Despite the loss, the Panthers are prepared to turn the experience into a teaching device with playoffs looming.
"They gave us a lot to learn from," Gervais said. "This is a great match for us to reflect on the things that we need to do better. And we knew that they were going to show us where our weak areas were. We were hoping we could compete a little more than that, but they serve so well. They're just so strong in all their areas."
For Westby, the match revealed the Panthers as a team loaded with potential and poised to make an impact during section playoffs.
"They're going to make some noise in Section 3A," Westby said. "People are going to have to deal with them, especially defensively. I thought they really dug the ball well."
The Panthers (13-14, 8-2 Camden Conference) have one match left before playoffs, as they travel to Pipestone on Thursday for their regular season finale. Marshall (21-5 overall, 5-0 Southwest Conference) returns to Southwest Conference play today with a trip to Luverne and a chance to secure a conference championship in its regular season finale.
Marshall25 25 25
TMB17 13 11
Serving (good-att-aces): M-Rachel Sanow 15-15-3, Hannah Bennett 10-10-3; T-Sammie Gervais 9-9-1, Kassidy Przymus 8-9-0, Kelli Soupir 7-7-0.
Kills: M-Kenzie Beekman 20, Sydney Griffin 9, Callie Graff 5; T-Gervais 6, Jenna Stoneberg 5, Morgan Hoffbeck 5.
Digs: M-Bennett 21, Beekman 13, Griffin 11, Steph Baker 10; T-Anna Peterson 13, Przymus 11.
Set Assists: M-Griffin 18, Sanow 17; T-Cassie Hook 19.
Blocks: M-Griffin 6, Graff 3, Beekman 3, Emma Doyle 3; T-Stoneberg 1, Gervais 1.