PREP VOLLEYBALL: Young Vikings hungry for more after second place state finish this season

Independent file photo Members of the Minneota volleyball team celebrate after scoring a point during their Class A Championship match against Mayer Lutheran on Saturday. The Vikings will lose just one senior from this year’s team and return many key players.

MINNEOTA – From 2001-2013, the Minneota volleyball team made the trip to the Class A state tournament 10 times. This past weekend the Vikings competed in the state tournament and reached the state title game for the first time since 2009. The Vikings fell in the title game to Mayer Lutheran, the defending Class A state champions in straight sets.

The season may not have ended how the Vikings had hoped, but that doesn’t take away from the special run they had. With only one senior on this year’s roster there is reason to believe that this year could have been the beginning of another long run of state tournament trips for the Vikings.

“We are only losing one person,” junior Lizzy Gillingham said. “We can only go up from here. Most of us will be back.”

Taking into consideration the section that the Vikings play in makes what they did this season even more special. The 3A section has no shortage of quality teams and great players.

Canby’s Abbey Pederson was named the 1A Player of the Year. The Vikings defeated the Lancers in straight sets in the section tournament.

Wabasso’s Maddy Guetter earned All-State honorable mention honors. The Vikings disposed of the Rabbits in straight sets.

Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s Sydney Lanoue and Kaylee Kirk both earned All-State honors. The Vikings defeated a TMB team that had reached the state tournament three straight years in the section championship game.

The section also consists of a very good MACCRAY team, a talented Windom Area team, a Murray County Central team that won a share of their conference and a Russell-Tyler-Ruthton team that had a strong senior class.

With a strong core returning the Vikings are gearing up to do it all over again next year.

“Getting back to state is definitely a goal,” Minneota coach Hayley Fruin said. “If you would have asked about us people probably would have thought we would have done well in sections, but not make it to state. I think some people may have overlooked us.”

Leading the way for the Vikings this year was a strong junior class. Lydia Sussner led the Vikings this season with 514 kills and 89 blocks. Sussner was named to the 1A All-State tournament team.

Setting Sussner up is setter Morgan Kockelman. Kockelman finished the season with 1,130 assists.

Gillingham finished her junior year with 283 digs and 213 kills. She also recorded 21 aces.

Rounding out the junior class is Emily Pohlen and Sydney Larson. Pohlen finished the year with 19 aces. Larson chipped in with 58 kills.

As an eighth grader Natalee Rolbiecki recorded 193 kills. Rolbiecki was named to the All-tournament team this weekend for her performance at state.

Abby Hennen will return as the team’s libero. As a freshman Hennen finished the season with 575 digs.

Morgan Hennen was also a key member of the back row for the Vikings. As a sophomore Hennen recorded 306 digs.

Ellie Pesch led the team in aces as a freshman. Pesch recorded 26 aces and 176 digs.

The Vikings’ upset of the Panthers in the section championship match could have been taken as a changing of the guard. The Vikings defeated a Panthers team with four talented seniors that had played in three state tournament trips. Now, the Vikings will return for the 2018 as the cream of the crop in one of the toughest sections at the 1A level. If they want to stay on top they’ll have to work for it.

“I think we are going to have to work on covering and hitting around a block,” Kockelman said. “I think we did those things really well this year. If we practice as hard as we did this year and have as much heart as we did this year I think we can make it back next year.”