MINNEOTA - In a convincing sweep of the Windom Eagles on Thursday, the Minneota Vikings completed their regular season without dropping a best-of-five match and handed the Eagles their fourth loss of the year to a Camden Conference team.
Relying on an improving defense and a standout night from sophomore Taylor Reiss, the Vikings dispatched of the Eagles 25-17, 25-18, 25-20.
Minneota had previously beaten Windom on Sept. 15 at the Jackson County Central Tournament. Windom had also been defeated by Tracy-Milroy-Balaton and Central Minnesota Christian in the past week.
Photo by Travis Andries
Minneota’s Hanna Prellwitz blocks a hit attempt by Windom’s Holly Larson during Thursday night’s non-conference match in Minneota.
The Vikings only lost three times all year, all occurring in tournaments and against Class AAA schools, on their way to a 25-3 record.
Playing against the Class AA Eagles in a final preparation before the postseason, Minneota was able to jump out to a two-sets-to-none lead thanks in part to team defense.
"I thought we played good defense," Minneota head coach Steph Hennen said. "We got to balls we needed to get to. I thought we did a nice job tonight."
Windom17 18 20
Minneota 25 25 25
Serving (good-att-aces): Taylor Reiss 16-20-2, Faith Laleman 13-13-2, Molly Hennen 13-13-0.
Kills: Reiss 18, Hennen 14, Shelby Corbin 10.
Digs: Reiss 18, Hennen 16, Megan Larson 13, Corbin 7.
Set Assists: Larson 42.
Blocks: Reiss 4, Larson 2, Hanna Prellwitz 2.
Reiss, a known offensive juggernaut, set the tone defensively with a team-high 18 digs. She also led the Vikings in three other major statistics.
Also contributing to limiting the Eagles offense were a trio of juniors. Molly Hennen had 16 digs for the Vikings, while setter Megan Larson tallied 13 and Shelby Corbin was credited with seven digs.
"I think they all are playing better defense," Hennen said. "I think we're coming together at a good time."
Indeed they are. The Vikings have just one loss in the past month, a 2-0 loss to Osseo at the Apple Valley October Classic on Oct. 12. Losing to the Orioles, however, may have served as an early wake-up call Class A's third-ranked team.
"I think so. Obviously we don't like to get beat, but it wasn't the worst thing that has happened to us," Hennen said. "We were able to come back from it strong."
Minneota has rattled off five straight wins without dropping a set since the loss and appear to be hitting on all cylinders, especially on offense.
The Vikings had three players reach double digit kills against Windom off of 42 set assists from Larson. Molly Hennen had 14 and Shelby Corbin had 10 kills. Reiss pounded down 18 kills to lead the team, including the final two points of the match.
Efficiently attacking the Eagles is never easy with libero Jasmine Carlson patrolling the floor, but Hennen and Reiss managed to do so, particularly in the third set. The Vikings' top attackers had 13 of their combined 32 kills in the final set.
"They talk to each other and they just holler out where the hole is and that's where they try to put it," Steph Hennen said. "I thought they did a nice job of talking to each other and helping each other out. I thought Taylor and Molly did a nice job of putting the ball away when they needed to."
The Vikings controlled the net defensively as well, with three players combining for eight ace blocks. Reiss had a team-high four ace blocks, while Larson and Hanna Prellwitz each had a pair.
Having received the top seed in the Section 3A playoffs, the Vikings will begin their postseason on Friday, Oct. 26, at 6 p.m. at Southwest Minnesota State's R/A Facility in Marshall against the winner of Lakeview and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg.