SAINT PAUL - If there was one team that the Minneota volleyball team would like to have a rematch with, it would be the Southwest Christian Stars.
In the State Class A quarterfinals Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, the Vikings swept the Carlton Bulldogs (25-21, 25-8, 25-18) while the Stars defeated Martin County West (25-18, 25-16, 25-9), ensuring a semifinal matchup for the second straight year.
Southwest Christian got the better of Minneota at the 2012 state tournament, taking them down in straight sets. But the Vikings have visions of turning the tables this time around.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
Minneota’s Molly Hennen, left, watches the ball after a hitting attempt against Carlton’s Lindsay Ermatinger (10) and Jessica Stanslaski (13) during the quarterfinal round of the MSHSL?Class A Volleyball State Tournament on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
"They're solid," Minneota head coach Steph Hennen said. "They have a nice outside hitter who does a lot for them. Their setter does a decent job, too. They've got a nice team. The lost to Fillmore Central in the Class A Showcase this season, so we were able to scout them a little bit, but we'll have to play a solid match."
In the matchup Thursday against the Mavericks, Mackenzie Horkey led Southwest Christian with 26 kills, 16 digs and three blocking assists.
"They swept us badly last year and the girls remember that," Hennen said. "They're looking to avenge that loss."
Vikings middle hitter Taylor Reiss will lead the charge into today's semifinal match against the Stars. Reiss hammered down 17 kills and collected 12 digs and two ace blocks in the quarterfinal sweep against Carlton.
Molly Hennen chipped in with 10 kills for Minneota, while Shelby Corbin had seven, Megan Larson five and Krista Maeyaert four.
"A big key for us is that everyone contributes on our team," Reiss said. "Everyone has something that they do. And we have a lot of powerful hitters on our team, so if one person isn't doing well, another one will step up and do it for them."
Reiss crushed the ball to give the Vikings their first point in the opening set of play. Back-to-back kills from Reiss gave the team a 7-3 edge. Then Hennen took over, recording three straight kills to stretch the lead to 10-5, forcing the Bulldogs to take their first time out.
Corbin then got in the action, picking up two straight kills to give Minneota a 19-13 advantage. But Carlton came charging back, getting as close as two points at 23-21 on a kill from Amanda Groth.
That was as close as the Bulldogs would come, however, as Hennen found the floor twice to finish off the set 25-21.
"We couldn't find a whole lot of information on Carlton, but what we did find, we were able to piece together enough to come out with a win," Coach Hennen said. "I thought we started a little slow, but we have a couple of girls who have never played down here before. They weren't even on varsity before so they weren't even on the floor and that makes a difference. I thought they did a nice job once they settled in, and after that, things went well for us."
Minneota went right back to establishing its offensive attack and defensive effort in the second set, building a 7-3 lead on an ace block from Hennen. Reiss picked up a kill from the back row, giving the Vikings a 10-5 lead.
After a kill from Corbin, the Bulldogs committed a handful of hitting and serving errors, allowing Minneota to take a 16-7 lead.
"I felt that they were getting a little frustrated," Reiss said. "It's hard when you're down and trying to come back and you can't. It's hard for any team. I think we did a good job of keeping them down."
After Hennen contributed an ace serve and a kill on an overpass, The Vikings really got into rhythm, collecting two ace blocks from Reiss, an ace serve from Payton Boerboom and kills from Reiss (2) and Corbin (1) to earn a 25-8 win.
"I thought we did a nice job of talking and sticking together," Coach Hennen said. "I thought our serving was pretty darn good. We missed a couple of them, but we served aggressively and we hit the seams we wanted to and we went after the people we wanted to."
With only eight teams represented at the state tournament, Coach Hennen knows that every single one of them has the potential to win matches and that her team has to be really to play.
"I thought we were firing, just about, on all cylinders in that second set," she said. When you get to this point, there are only eight teams left, so everybody is going to be good. Nobody wants to lose here, so you have to be ready to play right out of the gate."
Carlton held a 4-3 lead in the third set before Minneota took over again, starting with kills from Reiss, Larson and Krista Maeyaert. Additional kills from Hennen, Maeyaert and Kelsey Maeyaert gave the team an 11-5 edge and momentum pushed them to 14-5.
"I thought the Maeyaert girls played well," Coach Hennen said. "Krista kept a lot of balls alive up there. She got a lot of touches on the ball and blocks on ball, even if they didn't necessarily score, she was doing a nice job."
The Bulldogs weren't about to go down without a fight, however, and they battled back to pull within four at 14-11. But once again, the Vikings were able to dominate the net both offensive and defensively, coming away with a 25-18 win.
"I think we played pretty good, but I know we can play better," Reiss said. "I think we may have overlooked them a little bit because of their record, but (today's) game is going to be a lot harder, so we're just going to have to come out better than we played (Thursday). We need to play with more energy and more as a team."
Minneota (30-3), the No. 2 seed in the tournament, will take on Southwest Christian, the No. 3 seed, at 3 p.m. today on Court 2 at the Xcel Energy Center. And after being denied a state championship for the past five straight years, the Vikings will be focused on getting into the state championship match.
"I want to win the state championship," Reiss said. "I feel we can do it if we work for it. If we do our best, I think we have a chance to win it."
Carlton 21 8 18
Minneota 25 25 25
MINNEOTA INDIVIDUAL STATISICS
Serving (good-att-aces): Molly Hennen 11-11-2, Megan Larson 16-16-0, Taylor Reiss 10-11-0, Kalley Kloos 8-9-0, Payton Boerboom 16-16-2, Shelby Corbin 8-10-2.
Kills: Reiss 17, Hennen 10, Corbin 7, Larson 5, Krista Maeyaert 4, Kelsey Maeyaert 1.
Digs: Corbin 16, Reiss 12, Larson 9, Krista Maeyaert 8, Hennen 7, Amber Engels 7.
Set Assists: Larson 33.
Blocks: Reiss 2, Krista Maeyaert 2, Hennen 1.