PREP VOLLEYBALL: Prep volleyball game of the week: TMB at Minneota

Independent file photo Minneota’s Lizzy Gillingham sets the ball as TMB’s Sidney Karbo (9) and Sydney Lanoue (11) try to block it during a Sept. 2016 match. The two teams will meet again tonight.

MINNEOTA – Since 2009 Minneota or Tracy-Milroy-Balaton has represented southwest Minnesota at the Class A State Tournament. The Vikings started that streak by reaching the state tournament in 2009 and making the trip up to state for the next five years. The Vikings than passed the baton on to the Panthers, who have reached the state tournament the past three years.

Last year the Panthers defeated the Vikings in straight sets in the section championship to punch their ticket to the state tournament. Tonight the two teams will square off again when the fourth ranked Panthers travel to Minneota to take on the eighth ranked Vikings.

Slowing Sydney

TMB’s Sydney Lanoue is one of the area’s top hitters. Minneota head coach Hayley Fruin said slowing down Lanoue is the team’s top priority.

“Tracy is a very competitive team,” Fruin said. “There is no doubt that Sydney Lanoue is going to get her kills. We can’t just focus on her because they have other swingers on the front row. We’ve been working on our blocking and our defense. We have to serve tough and get them out of balance.”

Fruin said that Lanoue is one of the smartest players she’s coached against.

“She’s just a smart player,” Fruin said. “She sees the court so well. She’s just a smart player and she can really hit the ball.”

Slowing Sussner

Just like TMB, the Vikings have a heavy hitter themselves. Minneota’s top gun is, Lydia Sussner. TMB coach, Rick Haberman said in order for the Panthers to win tonight they have to find a way to contain Sussner.

“They have a lot of guns,” Haberman said. “Lydia Sussner is the biggest gun. She’s a strong hitter. We have to find a way to slow her down. We are not going to hold her to zero kills. That’s not going to happen, but we have to find a way to slow her down. She’s such a tough hitter. They have a bunch of other kids that can hit, but she’s the strongest hitter. We need to defend very, very well.”

New Setter

One of the biggest challenges TMB faced heading into the 2017 season was replacing starting setter, Gabby Gervais. Haberman said that he’s been pleased with the job that Cassidy Smith has done stepping in for a four-year starter.

“That was a tough role for anybody to step into,” Haberman said. “Gabby set for four years. Cassidy has done a good job with it. She’s hard on herself. Sometimes she makes it more difficult. She has high expectations for herself. She’s done a great job stepping into that role. She became the leader of the offense and has been able to connect with hitters that she hasn’t worked with before. Cassidy has done a really good job in that position.”

Defense will be key

Both head coaches said that the team that does the better job passing and digging out hits will be the team that walks away with the victory.

“We have to play great defense,” Haberman said. “Sussner is an outstanding hitter. They have a number of other kids that are good hitters. They know how to put the ball away. We are going to have to play outstanding defense. Defense will be the top factor in the matchup.”

Fruin said if her team gives consistent effort on defense they’ll have a good shot of picking up the victory.

“We have to limit our errors,” Fruin said. “Our defense really needs to be ready, especially in the back row. We will have to serve tough.”