On the road for a non-conference match against the New Ulm Eagles on Monday, the top-ranked Marshall Tigers received a warning shot across the bow early on in their 3-0 sweep of the Eagles.
"We struggled throughout the first set," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "I thought Hannah (Bennett) and Steph Baker really pulled us out of it in the second set. We started passing the ball better, and those two did a nice job of righting the ship a little bit."
Marshall managed to defeat the Eagles 25-14, 25-10, 25-15 despite early passing woes.
Photo by Steve Muscatello / The Journal of New Ulm
Marshall's Maci Louwagie (3) and Callie Graff attempt to block a spike from New Ulm's Chase Shewe (10) during the Tigers' sweep Monday at New Ulm High School. The Tigers had three players finish the match with two or more ace blocks — Kenzie Beekman, Sydney Griffin and Emma Doyle.
"We kind of struggled passing early on in the match," Westby said. "New Ulm played hard and that made it a little more difficult for us, but once we adjusted we played better."
Attribute the Tigers' slow start to an amalgamation of a weekend without practice and the price that comes with being Class AA's top-ranked program.
"We talked about the fact that everyone's going to give us their best shot and we need to deal with that. Unfortunately, we haven't always done that this year," Westby said.
With the slow start behind them, the Tigers settled in and used their improved passing to jump start their offense. Kenzie Beekman had a team-high 16 kills and five aces on 19 of 20 serving. Sydney Griffin had 11 kills to go along with her 15 set assists, while Maci Louwagie had five kills and nine digs. Bennett led the Tigers with 14 digs and Rachel Sanow had 14 set assists.
Beekman also led the Tigers with three ace blocks, while Griffin and Emma Doyle each had a pair on a night when one of Marshall's more efficient weapons was seldom effective.
"One of the things we've done a good job of lately was blocking and this was probably one of the poorest blocking matches we've had," Westby said. "We had a difficult time pressing over the net."
The Tigers (14-4 overall, 3-0 Southwest Conference) have two days to work out the kinks before they travel to Pipestone for a first-place showdown with the Arrows (7-8, 3-0).
"Pipestone's had some success this year," Westby said. "We need to go down there ready to play. I'm sure it will be a good crowd, but we need to do a better job of getting ourselves ready to play."
Marshall25 25 25
New Ulm14 10 15
MARSHALL INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Serving (good-att-aces): Kenzie Beekman 19-20-5, Angela Tauer 18-18-3, Rachel Sanow 12-12-2.
Kills: Beekman 16, Sydney Griffin 11, Maci Louwagie 5.
Digs: Hannah Bennett 14, Maci Louwagie 9.
Set Assists: Griffin 15, Rachel Sanow 14.
Blocks: Beekman 3, Griffin 2, Emma Doyle 2.
NEW ULM INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
Kills: Alley Grejtak 5, Chase Schewe 5.
Digs: Briana Sieve 8.
Set Assists: Bree Friedman 14.
Blocks: Grejtak 2.