MARSHALL - The Minneota Vikings came ready to play, never allowing Central Minnesota Christian School the opportunity to gain any sort of momentum during the Section 3A-North championship match Thursday.
The Vikings asserted their dominance early on, quickly turning a 3-3 tie into a 12-4 advantage in the opening set and never looked back. The team continued to fire on all cylinders and closed out the set with a 25-11 win.
The second set started much like the first one, with Minneota building a 15-7 lead after the Bluejays knotted the score at 3-all. Defensive specialist Kalley Kloos recorded back-to-back ace serves during the stretch.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Minneota’s Megan Larson attempts to block of CMCS hitter Kendra Brouwer during the Class A Section 3 North title match Thursday at SMSU’s R/A Facility.
"We just had to get back there, focus, get a good toss, get it over the net and be focused (Thursday)," Kloos said. "You want to get between the seams of the players and serve more aggressive between them. It was really fun."
The Vikings took complete control of the set, earning points at the serving line and at the net in addition to collecting points on CMCS errors.
"We wanted to stop Lexi Scott," Minneota middle hitter Krista Maeyaert said. "She was a good hitter and so was No. 12 (Erin Orred). I think we did well communicating and coming to the middle as a group. It was a good win. They were tough competition."
Minneota closed out the second set with a block from setter Megan Larson, two kills from middle hitter Taylor Reiss and a kill from Maeyaert.
"This is my first year starting as a middle," Maeyaert said. "I was a setter on B-squad last year. It's definitely a big difference, just hitting and stuff. I think I've come a long way."
Viking head coach Steph Hennen was pleased with her team's effort in the match.
"I thought my kids did a great job of communicating on everything," Hennen said. "They talked about what was open. They talked about where they thought the hitters were going. They did a great job with that. I also thought we served aggressively. I don't think we missed very many and we were hitting our spots for the most part."
Minneota collected 11 ace serves in the match, led by Shelby Corbin, who went 14-for-14 with three aces, Reiss, who was 16-for-17 with three aces and Kloos, who went 11-for-11 with three aces. The team also stepped up its defense, with Corbin (13 digs), Reiss (11) and Molly Hennen (7) leading the way.
"We really focused on defense, setting the block in the right place and making sure our middle backs, left and right backs were in the right position," Kloos said. "That was one of our keys to winning. It was nerve-wracking, but I'm glad we came out with a win."
After a kill from Scott to even the score at 3-all, the Vikings worked their way to an 11-3 lead. Behind kills from Hennen, Kelsey Maeyaert and Krista Maeyaert, the team stretched its advantage to 20-8 and eventually cruised to a 25-14 victory.
Reiss finished the match with 15 kills, while Hennen had nine and Corbin six. Larson and Krista Maeyaert added three kills apiece. Larson also tallied 27 set assists.
"Megan just does a terrific job of putting the ball wherever we need her to," Coach Hennen said. "She sees the floor so well and she knows what the hitters like and where they want the ball. We worked on when we had passes that were out of system, what she was going to do and where our hitters were going to be and what was going to be available to them as options. It happened a few times tonight and we were able to get some good swings on those, so that was good."
While the Bluejays close out their season with a 25-7-2 overall record, Minneota (28-3) will advance to the Section 3A championship at 7 p.m. Saturday against Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, who defeated Murray County Central in straight sets Thursday. Having placed in the top three at the state volleyball tournament the past three years, the Vikings are determined to return again this season, though the know they can't look ahead too far.
"Teams are going to come out at us with everything they have," Coach Hennen said. "We need to be ready every night, every point. We want to be able to set the tempo right from the start and play our kind of game at our speed and we have to do that right away because it's hard to dig a hole and get back then."
MINNEOTA INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Serving (good-att-aces): Molly Hennen 10-11-0, Megan Larson 6-6-1, Taylor Reiss 16-17-3, Kalley 11-11-3, Payton Boerboom 11-13-1, Shelby 14-14-3.
Kills: Reiss 15, Henen 9, Corbin 6, Larson 3, Krista Maeyaert 3.
Digs: Corbin 13, Reiss 11, Hennen 7, Payton Boerboom 5, Larson 5, Amber Engels 3.
Set Assists: Larson 27.
Blocks: Hennen 2, Krista Maeyaert 1, Larson 1, Reiss 1.