MARSHALL - The Central Minnesota Christian volleyball team came into Tuesday night's Section 3A-North sub-section semifinal at the R/A Facility on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University with an upset on its mind. And after the first set, the fourth-seeded Bluejays looked to be on their way to knocking off top-seeded Minneota.
The Vikings, however, rallied from their opening-set loss to defeat the Bluejays in four sets 18-25, 25-17, 25-11 and 25-19 to advance to the sub-section finals at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, when Minneota will square off against a familiar opponent in Dawson-Boyd, whom the Vikings have already beaten twice in 2012.
On Thursday, the Vikings will look to avoid a start like they had against CMCS.
Photo by Travis Andries
Minneota’s Shelby Corbin, right, tries to set the ball over the net past a Central Minnesota Christian player during a Section 3A-North semifinal match at the R/A Facility on Tuesday.
Minneota struggled passing early in the first set, committing five errors en route to spotting the Bluejays a quick 7-0 lead. In total, the Vikings made 12 errors in the opening frame, while struggling to get closer than six points. At its closest the set was 21-17, but a final 4-0 run for the Bluejays gave them the right start to spoil the Vikings' season.
"I don't think we talked very well," Minneota head coach Steph Hennen said of her team's opening-set difficulties. "We just kind of stood around. I thought we let them set the tempo."
The tune of the match would change quickly, as it was the Vikings who got out to early leads in the following three sets. Hennen said the break between the first and second set served as a moment to reflect on the goals the team had set for itself to start the season.
"We talked about how this wasn't where we wanted our season to end," she said. "It wasn't how we wanted our season to end and the only ones who could do anything about it were ourselves. So we had to come out and change some things. I think when we were playing behind the whole time in Set 1, it was easy to sit back and not want to make a mistake. And I don't think we can do that. I think we have to come out and fire away."
With kills from Karissa Bot, Taylor Reiss, and Molly Hennen to start the second set, the Vikings did just that. After leading 6-1, Minneota allowed a three-point run for the Bluejays. But another kill from Reiss got the side-out for the Vikings and set up a 6-0 run for Minneota, featuring four kills from the sophomore.
Reiss finished the four-set match with 31 kills, but the match was swung by the increased aggressiveness at the net by a pair of Vikings not as well known for their attacking prowess.
Hanna Prellwitz had three kills in the second set for the Vikings and setter Megan Larson took advantage of openings at the net to pick up a kill for herself. Prellwitz had eight kills total, as well as three blocks. Larson finished with just three kills, but had 10 digs, two ace blocks, and 46 set assists to demonstrate her all-around development.
"She has been working on that," Hennen said of her setter. "She would be a great hitter. She's a great setter, but she has power behind her hits, too, and she blocks well."
In the third set, the Vikings didn't rush out to an insurmountable lead at the outset. Rather the Vikings scored two points to every one for the Bluejays to extend a 3-1 lead into a 12-6 lead. Minneota then used two extended runs, one for four points and the other for five, to outscore CMCS 13-5 down the stretch and take Set 3 25-11.
Set 4 featured another explosive start for the Vikings. By benefit of six CMCS errors, Minneota jumped out to a 9-1 lead and led 17-4 soon after. But the Bluejays were not willing to go away so quickly.
A 10-2 run for CMCS brought the Bluejays within five points and forced Hennen to take a timeout.
"They were scrappy," Hennen said of CMCS. "They weren't overpowering, they just kept a lot of balls alive."
Following the break, the Vikings picked up their play thanks in part to some tremendous digs by Faith Laleman. The senior led Minneota with 23 digs to help limit the kill totals of Blom and Alexis Scott (14 and five, respectively).
"She played good defense tonight," Hennen said of Laleman. "A couple of times she questioned why she didn't get a ball, but overall I thought her defense was really great tonight."
Minneota held off the late run by the Bluejays and finished the game with a kill by Reiss. Though she was the only Viking in double figures for attacking, she was among five players with double-digit digs for the Vikings. Reiss had 16, as did Shelby Corbin, while Molly Hennen had 15. Larson (10) and Laleman (23) were the others.
With the win, the Vikings improve to 27-3 on the season and extend their current winning streak to seven games. The dropped first set was the first set the Vikings had lost since a 2-0 loss to Osseo on Oct. 12.
"I think tonight was an excellent wake-up call for us," Hennen said. "It showed us that we can't look past anybody. We have to come out ready to go right from the start, don't dig ourselves a hole. I think we'll be ready for Thursday night."
CMCS25 17 11 19
Minneota18 25 25 25
MINNEAOTA INDIVIDUAL STATS
Serving (good-att-aces): Faith Laleman 24-26-1, Molly Hennen 20-20-0, Analisa Buysse 15-15-0, Shelby Corbin 13-15-0, Taylor Reiss 11-12-1.
Kills: Reiss 31, Hennen 9, Hanna Prellwitz 8, Corbin 4.
Digs: Laleman 23, Corbin 16, Reiss 16, Hennen 15, Megan Larson 10.
Set Assists: Larson 46.
Blocks: Prellwitz 3, Larson 2, Hennen 2, Reiss 1.