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CLASS A VOLLEYBALL: No. 1 Minneota recovers from slow start to defeat No. 5 Greyhounds in four sets

No. 1 Minneota recovers from slow start to defeat No. 5 Greyhounds in four sets

Photo by Sam Thiel Minneota's Morgan Hennen follows through on a kill during their Class A semifinal match against Fosston on Friday at Xcel Energy Center.

ST. PAUL — The Minneota volleyball team had its backs against the wall early in Friday’s Class A semifinal match against No. 5 seed Fosston. The Greyhounds matched Minneota’s play with each step they took in the opening set, ultimately claiming it 25-23.

One of the keys in Fosston’s victory in Set 1 was its ability to take advantage of the open spots on the floor that the Vikings couldn’t quite get to. Minneota coach Hayley Fruin said after the first set, each player did a good job of taking ownership for mistakes that were made throughout the opening frame and making the right adjustments going into Set 2.

“Defensively we did a much better job of just taking a little bit of ownership and covering a bit more of the court and not just expecting someone else to take the ball,” Fruin said. “Obviously this is a team that we faced earlier in the season and I don’t think we were overlooking them, but we just didn’t come out fired up and ready to go. Not taking anything away from Fosston, they’re a really good team.”

But just like it has with its situations when facing a deficit, Minneota’s experience and ability to weather the storm was shown once again. Sets 2, 3 and 4 went much more smoothly for the Vikings, as Minneota continued to improve each frame and as a result, took the final three frames for the 3-1 victory.

The Vikings were able to rely on not only a balanced offensive attack, but a few players helped provide a spark when Minneota needed it most. In Set 2, with Minneota holding onto a slim 6-4 lead, sophomore setter McKenna Yost stepped behind the service line and delivered a run that not only got the offense back on track, but created a much-needed cushion as the Vikings took a 12-4 lead and later the second set at 25-14.

Yost also finished as the set assists leader with a match-high 36. She said one of their keys as an offense throughout the season has been their ability to create a fast-paced set which she added helps keep defenses constantly on the move.

“We like to run quicker sets because it’s way harder for the blocks to get from pin to pin,” Yost said. “We like to spread the ball around a lot because we want to make the middles tired on the other side of the court and it works really well for us to be able to set it quickly and have a quicker offense.”

On the defensive side, the Vikings held the Greyhounds in check after Set 1, only allowing 31 points the rest of the way from Fosston. Abby Rost, who had one solo block and a pair of block assists, said as defenders, they knew they had to keep Fosston’s hitters out of system and be able to provide the back row with a chance to get quality passes to the setter.

“I knew that we had to keep the other team out of system because they kept getting our balls up, so being able to keep them out of system would help our back row get our balls up so that we could have a good swing at them,” Rost said.

Today, the Vikings will play in their third straight state championship match in as many years and will face Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. After watching her teammates help bring the team’s first championship since 2006 last season, Yost said it’s a little extra special to be out there helping them compete for another title.

“It’s really special for us because last year we were just on the bench and cheering them on, but this year to be out on the court and playing with everyone means a lot more and it’s really fun to be with this team,” Yost said.

Natalee Rolbiecki echoed her teammate’s thoughts.

“Last year was pretty special,” Rolbiecki added. “But I want to do it two years in a row.”

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