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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Marshall sweeps New Ulm for conference crown in final match of the season

Photo by Sam Thiel Members of the Marshall volleyball team pose with their Big South Conference championship plaque after defeating New Ulm 3-0 on Friday.

MARSHALL — The Marshall volleyball team had a lot to play for during their final match of the season. While they weren’t able to compete for a section championship or have a chance to play at state this year due to the latest executive order by Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz cutting their season short, Marshall still had an opportunity to cross off one of its goals in the form of a conference championship.

Thanks to a strong start, Marshall quickly set the tone of the match against the New Ulm Eagles and earned a 3-0 (25-10, 25-11, 25-14) victory on Friday. The conference title is also the seventh straight for Marshall.

Marshall coach Dan Westby said while they are disappointed they won’t be able to compete for a section championship or possibly play at state, they were happy to end their season on a high note and accomplish one of their goals.

“We generally set goals at the start of the year and winning the conference is one of them. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the only one we’re going to be able to get when it comes to section championships and that sort of thing and this is the only one we’re going to get,” Westby said. “We’re happy we were able to do that and we take a lot of pride in that, so we’re happy the kids came out pretty focused so that was good.”

Marshall quickly gained control of the opening set, going up 5-2 before pushing its lead to 10-4. Using a strong serving performance in the frame to its advantage, Marshall would go up double digits at 14-4 before ultimately taking the set 25-10.

The second set saw another strong start by Marshall, as it went up 7-2 before extending the advantage to 12-4. Marshall continued to create further separation over the next few possessions, going up 11 at 17-6 and later took the second frame 25-11 and a 2-0 lead in the match.

Set 3 was more back-and-forth to start, as the Eagles held a slim 4-3 lead but Marshall answered to take an 11-7 advantage. Marshall then went on an 8-2 run to take a 19-9 lead before claiming the final frame 25-14 to earn the sweep.

Jordyn Hilgemann recorded eight kills for Marshall while Emily Meier and Courtni Nielsen each added six and Tessa Gannott and Taylor Ariasola each had five. Maysa Gillingham had 13 digs while Hilgemann added nine and Caitlyn Christenson had eight. Gillingham also recorded 28 set assists.

Perfection

Not only did Friday’s victory for Marshall give them an undefeated record, they also didn’t drop an entire set all season.

“I think there was one time against Redwood earlier where they scored 23, but other than that, I don’t think anybody really got closer than 21,” Westby said. “I think this is a talented group and they’ve worked hard, so we’re happy that they were able to do that.”

Saluting the seniors

Friday’s match also marked the final one for Marshall’s seven seniors. They are Abby Dubs, Kendra Webb, Morgan Hart, Meier, Hilgemann, Araya Rock and Nielsen. With having such a large senior class, Westby said he’s proud of how they’ve stuck through it all and support each other on and off the floor.

“There’s a lot of them and anytime you can get a group like this to stay involved this long, that says a lot about this group,” Westby said. “I know they’re very tight with each other and they fought all the way through throughout the years and they’re going to be missed. They provide a lot.”

Looking ahead

Going into next season, Westby said they were able to play a variety of kids this season and they’ll have a strong group of players returning.

“We’re certainly going to miss our seniors,” Westby said. “We played a mix of seniors, juniors and sophomores, so we feel pretty good about the group we have coming back and hopefully we’ll be able to get back in the gym a little more regularly than this year and work some things out and come back strong next year.”

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