MARSHALL - The Marshall Tigers were rolling through their Section 3AA-North semifinal volleyball match against Benson until they got an unfortunate roll in the third set.
With the Tigers up 2-0 in the match and 9-6 in the third set, standout junior outside hitter Kenzie Beekman rolled her ankle defending the net, limped off the court and watched the rest of the match from the sidelines with her leg elevated.
The loss of Beekman didn't matter in this match, as the top-seeded Tigers easily dispatched the Braves 25-13, 25-12, 25-10, but for a few tense moments, the injury sure caused some uneasiness for Marshall as it continues on with its Class AA title defense.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Marshall senior middle hitter Maci Louwagie, left, rises for a hit attempt as Tiger setter Rachel Sanow, right, and Benson’s Emma Peterson look on during the second set of Tuesday’s Section 3AA-North semifinal match at Marshall High School. Louwagie was the top Tiger server on Tuesday, going 19 of 19 with four aces in her team’s sweep of the Braves.
Tigers head coach Dan Westby said Beekman hadn't sprained her ankle before and was somewhat shocked when she initially got hurt, but was confident that the Tigers' top hitter should be well enough to play for Thursday's 3AA-North final.
"I think she'll be OK. She'll be back," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "But it got a little dicey there when she went out of the game in terms of our lineup. We had to make some switches and things, but yeah, it certainly got our attention."
Marshall (24-5 overall) will face No. 6 seed Montevideo (11-13-1) at 7 p.m. Thursday in Granite Falls in the sub-section finals. The Thunder Hawks followed Friday's upset of third-seeded Morris Area/Chokio-Albert with another shocker on Tuesday, ousting No. 2 seed Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop in straight sets.
The Tigers continued their trend of hot serving Tuesday night to get a quick lead on Benson (12-13). Playing in her final match at Marshall High School, senior Maci Louwagie opened the first set with back-to-back ace serves. The Tigers got out to a 5-0 lead and had seven of their 14 aces in the first set as they took control of the match.
Louwagie finished the match 19 of 19 serving with four aces.
Benson did better at adjusting to Marshall's serve in the second set and extended rallies with tough defense against the Tigers' attack. But while the rallies were longer, most of the points still went to the Tigers as they won 25-12 after jumping out to an 8-1 lead to start off the second set.
"Defensively, I thought they did a really nice job," Westby said of the Braves. "I thought they went after the ball and did a nice job keeping balls alive.
"Serve receive-wise, I thought Benson settled down and passed the ball better, but at the same time, I thought our kids continued to serve aggressively throughout the match."
Marshall had a 9-2 lead in the third set after back-to-back ace serves by senior Angela Tauer, who was 19 of 19 serving with three aces. The Braves began to mount a small rally before Beekman went down with her ankle injury.
The junior had had a big impact on the match up until that point, pounding down 16 kills, but the Tigers didn't skip a beat without her on the court. After a long delay as officials tried to determine the correct score of the third set, the Tigers went on a 5-1 run following Beekman's injury to take a 15-7 lead and force a Benson timeout. Marshall's Sydney Griffin had two kills hitting from the middle during the span, and added a few more from the left side as the set wore on.
Marshall finished the third set on a 15-4 run. Westby said his team seemed to be ignited by Beekman's injury, which wasn't something he was totally pleased about.
"We haven't been playing with a lot of energy the past couple of times out, and the unfortunate part was that when she went down, that's when our kids seemed to find another gear," he said. "That's unfortunate, especially at tournament time. We need to play like we're excited all the time and we really didn't do that until Kenzie went out."
Griffin did a bit of everything for the Tigers in the match, finishing with eight kills, 17 digs, 15 set assists and two ace blocks.
Marshall libero Hannah Bennett added 28 digs and was 10 of 10 serving with two aces. Tauer tallied five kills to go with her three ace serves, and Rachel Sanow had 11 set assists.
Benson13 12 10
Marshall25 25 25
MARSHALL INDIVIDUAL STATS
Serving (good-att-aces): Maci Louwagie 19-19-4, Angela Tauer 19-19-3, Hannah Bennett 10-10-2.
Kills: Kenzie Beekman 16, Sydney Griffin 11, Tauer 5.
Digs: Hannah Bennett 28, Griffin 17, Steph Baker 10.
Set Assists: Griffin 15, Rachel Sanow 11.
Blocks: Griffin 2, Callie Graff 2, Tauer.