ST. PAUL - It wasn't the state championship, but the Minneota Vikings came out and played like champions in the third-place match during the 2013 Class A State Volleyball Tournament Saturday in St. Paul.
And for the most part, the tears that were brought on by Friday's heart-breaking fifth-set loss to Southwest Christian in the semifinals were replaced by smiles and pats on the back.
The Vikings (31-4) swept Win-E-Mac (31-5) by scores of 26-24, 25-11, 25-8 to earn third-place honors for the fourth straight year.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Minneota’s Megan Larson dives to hit the ball against Win-E-Mac during the MSHSL?Class A Volleyball State Tournament third-place match Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
"After you lose in the semifinals, it would be really easy to hang your head, keep crying and just get blown out the next day," Minneota head coach Steph Hennen said. "But I thought we did a nice job of recovering and sticking together as a team."
The match concluded the high school career of Minneota seniors Megan Larson, Molly Hennen, Shelby Corbin, Kelsey Maeyaert, Alaine Buysse, Kalley Kloos and Megan Evers.
"They're a great group and we're going to miss each and every one of them tremendously," Coach Hennen said. "I wish them all well in whatever the next chapter of their life holds for them."
Minneota and Win-E-Mac alternated points in the first set, with the Vikings narrowly escaping with the 26-24 win. After that, Minneota dominated the court, beginning with Taylor Reiss' kill and ace block to open the second set. Reiss finished the match with 21 kills, 14 digs, six ace blocks and two ace serves
"Taylor knew how much we wanted to get this win for our seniors (Saturday) and I think she did everything she could to make sure that happened," Coach Hennen said. "She and Megan (Larson) just have an amazing connection and it was really fun to see that work out for them (Saturday)."
The Vikings continued to control the match, powering their way to an 11-0 lead. After a timeout, Jordyn Ose put the Patriots on the board with a kill. But Reiss continued to light up at the net, recording four more kills to give Minneota a 16-4 edge.
As the Vikings stepped up offensively and defensively, frustration began to settle in on the Patriots' side of the court and the errors quickly began to pile up. Minneota kept the pressure on and won the set 25-11.
"People expected us to be down after coming off a loss, but it helps when you are surrounded by positive teammates," Corbin said. "I have Molly and she's just happy all the time. We were disappointed, but we're not just done with that one game. We needed to come back and get this game."
In the third set, Reiss put on an impressive performance, recording two kills and two ace blocks to give Minneota a 4-0 lead. Larson and Corbin collected a kill apiece to stretch the lead to 9-1, forcing a Win-E-Mac timeout.
A Patriot error and kills from Reiss and Corbin ended an 8-0 run for the Vikings, who led 12-1 at that point.
After a kill from the Patriots' Karina Morrison, Minneota scored four more straight points. A kill from Hennen, Kelsey Maeyaert and Megan Evers helped close out the set at 25-8.
"It was nice to finish the season with a win," Molly Hennen said. "I think the third-place match is even tougher to get a sweep in because you're coming off of a difficult loss, so I'm proud of our team for coming out and playing hard (Saturday)."
Hennen noted that being a senior this season added a whole new dimension to her volleyball career.
"I'm so used to looking at the seniors and the captain, but this year, we're the captains," she said. "So we had to get each other up for games, help stay positive and stay focused. It was really different being the leaders on the floor, but it was also fun experience."
Hennen contributed a match-high 19 digs in addition to five kills, one block and one ace serve, while Corbin chipped in eight kills and 14 digs. Larson delivered 38 set assists, adding to her 3,000-plus career set assist total.
Minneota hit .344 and recorded 45 kills in the match, while the Patriots hit just .060 and earned 27 kills. The Vikings also had considerably more ace serves, blocks and digs.
"I have had the priviledge of getting to work with a very talented group of kids, who are leaders in the classroom and on the volleyball court," Coach Hennen said. "They make everyone around them better. They're a fun group, but when it's time to buckle down, they can do that, too. They've just been so much fun to be around and work with."
Korbyn Ross led the Patriots with 13 kills, while Shelby Kaster had eight. Madison McKeever added 15 sets assists, while Ose chipped in 10 digs of the team's 33 digs.
Southwest Christian (31-5) won the Class A state title by defeating Fillmore Central (35-3) by scores of 25-22, 25-17, 25-16.
At Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul
MSHSL Class A Volleyball State Tournament
MINNEOTA 3, WIN-E-MAC 0
Win-E-Mac 24 11 8
Minneota 26 25 25
MINNEOTA INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Serving (good-att-aces): Molly Hennen 25-26-1, Payton Boerboom 17-17-1, Shelby Corbin 10-10-0, Taylor Reiss 8-8-2, Megan Larson 8-8-0, Kalley Kloos 6-6-0.
Kills: Reiss 21, Corbin 8, Hennen 5, Kelsey Maeyaert 3, Krista Maeyaert 2, Larson 2, Megan Evers 1.
Digs: Hennen 19, Reiss 14, Corbin 14, Larson 8, Boerboom 6, Amber Engels 2.
Set Assists: Larson 38.
Blocks: Reiss 6, Kelsey Maeyaert 1, Hennen 1, Larson 1.