PREP VOLLEYBALL: Minneota takes out Panthers in three sets

Photo by Jake Przytarski Minneota’s Lizzy Gillingham connects on a kill during their match against TMB on Thursday. The Vikings defeated the Panthers 3-0.

TRACY – In a rematch of last year’s Section 3A championship, the Minneota Vikings reigned supreme in a straight-sets roadvictory over the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers, moving to 11-1 on the season. Vikings head coach Hayley Fruin was impressed by her team’s strong play defensively and lauded Morgan Kockleman for finding her hitters.

“I thought we were really disciplined on defense tonight,” said Fruin. “I thought we really served tough. Obviously Morgan did a great job of mixing the ball around and finding her hitters at times too.”

Early in the match the Panthers faced some adversity as starting outside hitter Margaret Dolan went down with an injury in the first set that would sideline her for the remainder of the game. Following the injury, the Panthers took some time to adjust to the new lineup on the court.

“When Margaret got hurt that kind of threw a wrench in thigns and it took awhile just to get used to new people in new spots,” said TMB coach Rick Haberman. “In volleyball it’s not like basketball where one person goes out and you just sub somebody else in. In volleyball one person goes out and it changes a lot of different things.”

When play resumed, the Vikings were able to establish momentum and jump out to an early 13-5 lead before a timeout was called by the Panthers. After the timeout, the Panthers responded by scoring four of the next seven points to bring the score to 16-9, but it was all Vikings the rest of the way as they cruised to a 25-10 first set victory.

The Vikings carried over the momentum generated in the first set to explode out of the gates to take a quick 4-0 lead. Following a Panthers timeout, TMB would respond again to score the following two points, but an unfazed Vikings team carried the play the rest of the way. The Vikings led 14-5 before going on a 10-point rally where they soon found themselves one point away from taking the second set. The Panthers would add a couple of points before the Vikings added the 25th point to win 25-7 and move to 2-0 on the match.

In the third and final set of Thursday night’s matchup, the Panthers came back from an early 6-1 deficit to tie the game at seven apiece. The two teams would go back and forth for a small-stretch with the Vikings having the slight edge at 14-10. Unfortunately for TMB, the Vikings were in the driver’s seat for the remainder of the set and outscored their opponent 11-1 to win 25-11, and take the match 3-0.

For the Panthers, Cassidy Smith and Samantha Edwards picked up the team’s only aces and Edwards would go on to lead the team in kills with six. Brooklyn Ludeman and Olivia Peterson paced their club in digs with 12 and 11, respectively.

TMB will be back on their home court in a Tuesday night matchup with Renville County West. Coach Haberman is hoping that his team will remain focused as it’s been crucial to their success.

“We’re getting better at staying focused for longer stretches and the more we focus the better we play,” said Haberman. “That’s what we’re learning about ourselves, when we focus more we play better.”

Minneota’s Abby Hennen led her team in digs with 15 in Thursday night’s win and Natalee Rolbiecki finished with 13. Lydia Sussner was the leader in kills for the Vikings with 11 and Rolbiecki finished with eight. Abby Hennen and Lizzy Gillingham finished with a combined three aces as Gillingham tallied a game-high two.

Minneota will also be back at home on Tuesday when they take on Lac qui Parle Valley looking to pick up their fifth consecutive win and move to 12-1. Coach Fruin will look to continue to rotate different lineups in upcoming matchups just as she did in Thursday’s win.

“We put in different kids trying three different lineups tonight and every one of them looked good,” said Fruin. “It’s just nice to know that we can keep being competitive in practice.”