SECTION 3A NORTH CHAMPIONSHIP: No. 1 Minneota knocks out No. 2 Lancers in three sets

Photo by Lacey Barke Minneota’s Lydia Sussner follows through on a kill during their Section 3A North Championship match against Canby on Thursday. Minneota won 3-0 to advance to the Section 3A title game.

MARSHALL- Battling it out for the Section 3A North Championship at Southwest Minnesota State University’s R-A Facility on Thursday night were the No. 2 seeded Canby Lancers and the No. 1 seeded Minneota Vikings. The Vikings came out victorious in a tough three-set win over the Lancers, with each set coming to 25-17, 25-15 and 27-25.

The first set had each team coming out with immense intensity and want for the win. An early tie of 3-3 was moved to 4-3 in Minneota’s favor when Lizzy Gillingham tipped the ball down. The Vikings were forced to work for their points as Canby’s Ahlea Wright was a challenge at the net and proved to be an asset on blocks for her team. The Lancers had a good effort at the net, but they struggled with retrieving the ball off of the block.

Minneota’s Lydia Sussner had a good read on the ball and placed it right in the middle of Canby territory for points. Abbey Pederson put too much heat behind her hit and placed the ball out of bounds, but after a kill by Sussner, Pederson redeemed herself and hit through a Vikings block. Despite their effort, the Lancers lost the starting set when Sussner put down a hard kill shortly after having earned a tip from a battle at the net.

Minneota head volleyball coach Hayley Fruin said that her girls were prepared for the game they were going in to. “Everyone, all 15 of us, stepped up individually,” she said. “Everyone knew their role and they came in and played. We were scrappy- balls weren’t falling without effort, and we covered tips well. Ellie Pesch did an amazing job with her serve receive in the last set, but all of the girls stepped up. The girls came in and were ready to work hard – they knew what they needed to do to win.”

Charlotte Wright had the first kill of the night and sent Vikings defenders flying after the ball. Jennifer Krog responded with a well-timed tip which caught Canby off guard and moved Minneota ahead. Vikings libero Abby Hennen was working overtime in the back row as the Lancers earned many points off of well-placed deep hits. A nice set from Canby paired with a powerful hit sent Minneota off the court to retrieve the ball. Despite a strong effort, the distance was too far, resulting in the Lancers further closing the distance between scores.

The Lancers weren’t responding to Sussner’s powerful hits effectively and their back row was slipping, which further boosted Minneota’s point total. A communication struggle on Canby’s behalf gave Minneota another point. The Lancers were placing their attacks well, but the Vikings had better timing. The second set of the night was won by Minneota when a Canby hitter got tangled in the net.

Amy Wagner, the head coach for Canby’s volleyball program, commended the game effort displayed by both her team and Minneota’s. “Minneota is a good squad, and they’re state ranked for a reason,” she said. They have the ability to take over, and they did. Our kids fought hard, and I am proud of them. It’s really been a team effort. I looked at our stats from the Russell-Tyler-Ruthton game from the other day, and we had 40 kills – not one girl was in the double digits. We just have had a really good season, and all of the kids have gotten along really well. It’s never easy when it’s over, but it is what it is.”

The Lancers came out with fire and increased intensity in the last set of the game, earning a 6-0 lead with the Vikings failing to respond. Canby lost this lead when they saw an error at the serving line which sent the ball out of bounds and into Minneota’s possession. The Lancers, with increased determination and effort, earned the ball back when they responded to Sussner’s hit with a block that sent the ball back to unprepared Minneota defenders. Trailing by 20-10, the Vikings were quiet yet determined.

Trying to gain lost ground, Minneota sent over a hit that had Canby players sliding on the ground, however this was shortly followed by the Vikings passing the ball into the net with all three of their touches. The net wasn’t one sided with the trouble it caused, and a Lancer outside hitter got tangled in it as well. The Vikings fought their way back up to match Canby’s points playing the same methodical, well-paced game that they have displayed all season. The score was tied 25-25, but it was the Vikings who pull ahead to win the game.

Looking forward to next season, Wagner says that next year has a lot of the same girls coming back. “We will be a successful team. We’ve built a tradition at Canby – and there’s a lot of pride associated with that,” she says. “We lose three seniors. Those three seniors have been such great mentors for the younger kids- I can’t say enough about them. Abbey, Alyssa, Mia – all three have set the bar really high. They’re great kids.”

Minneota’s stats show Pesch having a perfect 18-18 serving effort. Abby Hennen also had a perfect effort of 15, and Morgan Hennen also had an impressive display with an effort of 15-16. Morgan Kockelman contributed to her team with 41 set assists. Sussner was the leader in kills with 19 achieved. Backing up Sussner’s effort were teammates Natalee Rolbiecki who had seven and and Lizzy Gillingham who obtained five. Defensively, Sussner led her team in blocks with four solo. Abby Hennen led her team with 23 digs which was supported by Pesch who had 10 and Kockelman who earned seven.

Fruin was impressed with the competitive intensity that every Canby player brought to the court. “Canby battled tough; they are a great team and you have to give them credit,” Fruin said. “Abbey Pederson, she’s hard to stop, and they have other players too that did really well.They’re just a great team overall.”

Minneota will now face Tracy-Milroy-Balaton who were the winners of the Section 3A South Championship match over Windom Area.