By Jenny Kirk
MARSHALL - The quest of a three-peat for the defending Class AA state champions was kept alive Saturday, when Marshall easily dispatched of its opponent in the Section 3 Tournament championship match at Southwest Minnesota State University.
Photo by Jeff Arenz
The Marshall Tigers celebrate scoring a point against the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta Tigers during the Class AA Section 3 Tournament championship match Saturday at Southwest Minnesota State University’s R/A Facility.
The Tigers, the No. 1 seed in the South Subsection, defeated the Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta Tigers, the No. 3 seed in the North Subsection, by scores of 25-15, 25-9, 25-7 to advance to the MSHSL State Tournament.
While the Marshall volleyball program has collected a long list of accolades, no team has ever won three straight state titles. But the 2013 Tigers have high hopes to make history this year.
"I thought we came out and got it done quick. So, that's always good," Marshall setter/hitter Sydney Griffin said. "Hopefully, we can get the three-peat. We just always have to work hard in the match. It would be pretty surreal. It would be crazy."
Griffin had a solid all-around performance, contributing in every facet. She racked up 11 kills, 16 set assists, eight digs, two ace blocks and an ace serve.
It took Marshall about 10 plays to begin settling in and doing what it does best. An ace block from Marah Mulso started a 6-0 run that ended with in an 11-4 advantage. Griffin had had two kills and an ace block, while Kenzie Beekman added an ace serve during that stretch.
"We wanted to serve tough and keep our offense faster," Griffin said. "That's what we like to do. I thought we did well at that. I thought everybody did well (Saturday)."
Beekman, who finished with 15 kills, sparked a 4-0 run with three straight kills, giving Marshall a 19-8 edge.
MA-CA battled back, collecting points on three Marshall errors, two kills from Paige Schieler and an ace serve from Kourtney Giese, but the top-seeded team was able to close the first set 25-15 on a Beekman kill out of the middle, a Beekman ace serve and a MA-CA hitting error.
"They're a team that has really come on at the end of the season," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "I think those first few points, they played with a lot of confidence. They're a good team."
MA-CA upset second-seeded Litchfield and top-seeded New London-Spicer to earn the right to play in the section final.
Behind the serving line, setter Rachel Sanow led an 8-0 surge in the second set, giving Marshall a 9-1 advantage. Marshall continued to step up its offensive and defensive effort throughout the second and third sets, never allowing MA-CA to gain any sort of momentum.
Sanow was solid at the line, serving 21-for-21 with two aces in the match, while Beekman went 16-for-17 with four aces and Callie Graff was 9-for-9 with an ace.
"I thought our kids did a nice job of serving, just forcing them into a number of times where they didn't have a lot of options in terms of who they were going to set," Westby said. "I think that's a tribute to our kids and the time and energy we spend on serving in practice."
Sanow also contributed 18 set assists and eight digs.
"I think we played well as a team," Sanow said. "We hustled and we got stops on defense. We did all the little things."
Hannah Bennett anchored Marshall defene with 24 digs, while Beekman chipped in 20.
"I thought there were a couple times, early-on, where they hit a couple of balls and we didn't do anything with the block or in the back row, and then midway through that second set, they tipped a couple of balls on us. But outside of that, I thought our defense was pretty strong," Westby said. "We should be a strong defensive team. We've had a number of kids go through this a lot of times. So, we have a lot of experience there."
Marshall put up an extremely strong block, led by Marah Mulso, who posted seven ace blocks in the match.
"We wanted to stop their outside hitters," Sanow said. "No. 8 (Schieler) is a pretty good hitter. Their middles were, too. We wanted to get a good block on them."
The Tigers recorded five ace blocks in the second set as they came away with a 25-9 victory.
"I thought our blocking really came on in those last two sets and that made it difficult for them," Westby said. "I thought their kids got very passive then. They ended up using a lot of off-speed stuff to try and not have to deal with the block."
Schieler ended up compiling a team-high seven kills in the match for MA-CA, while Sydney Engebretson had three. Nicole Strobel, Lacee Maanum and Terianne Itzen added two kills apiece.
In the third set, Marshall quickly built a 6-1 lead. A kill from Emma Doyle sparked a 7-0 run, behind the serving of Sanow, to give MHS a 13-2 lead. Then, behind two kills from Griffin, two ace serves from Beekman and two kills from Lexi Saugstad, Marshall rolled to a 20-3 lead and an eventual 25-7 win.
"The thing we really enjoy about this group is how tight they are," Westby said. "They really support each other. When you have a team that has talent and a good work ethic, and then you throw in that good team chemistry like these kids have, it makes for a pretty tough team to beat."
While MA-CA finishes the season with a 19-6 record, the No. 1-seeded Marshall Tigers (29-3) will begin state tournament quarterfinal competition at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, facing the unranked Mora Mustangs (27-4).
"We've been practicing hard, getting ready for this big tournament. So, we're excited to finally compete in it," Sanow said. "We're really excited to go up there again and compete hard."
While the potential three-peat is in the back of their minds, Marshall isn't looking past anyone, Westby said. He believes that Class AA will be the most competitive of the three classes in the state tournament.
"We just want to go up there and, even through this tournament, take it one match at a time," Westby said. "We're going to try and follow that plan at the state tournament."
At Southwest Minnesota State's R/A Facility
MSHSL CLASS 2A SECTION 3 TOURNAMENT
Marshall 3, Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta 0
MARSHALL INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
SERVING (MADE-ATTEMPTED-ACES) - Rachel Sanow 21-21-2, Kenzie Beekman 16-17-4, Callie Graff 9-9-1, Sydney Griffin 6-6-1.
KILLS - Beekman 15, Griffin 11, Graff 7, Lexi Saugstad 3.
DIGS - Hannah Bennett 24, Beekman 20, Sanow 8, Griffin 8.
SET ASSISTS - Sanow 18, Griffin 16.
BLOCKS (ACES) - Marah Mulso7, Griffin 2, Beekman 2.