Eagles soar into semifinals
ST. PAUL -- It took the Windom volleyball team over three hours to make the trip to St. Paul for the state tournament. It took less than 60 minutes to win its first match at the Xcel Center Thursday.
The Eagles (30-2) proved why they finished as the No. 1 team in Class A, earning a clean sweep over Wheaton in the state quarterfinals.
"Our kids just came out and responded very well," Windom head coach Ron Wendorff said. "When we're playing like that, it's hard to score on us, because we're going to put some pressure on you, and we're going to dig up some balls and keep the ball alive."
It was hard for the Warriors (20-6-2) to score on the Eagles all match long. Windom won the first game, 25-7, before turning around to win 25-14. The third game was the closest, but never in question, as Windom pulled out a 25-15 victory.
Windom, making its first state appearance since 2000 looked like the veteran team against a Wheaton squad making its second consecutive visit to the Xcel Center.
"I thought our kids came out and played very composed," Wendorff said. "That's good thing that they were able to come out and play relaxed and play that well on the state tournament floor. From that respect, it should be easier tomorrow because we've been here. We're up in the big city, and we have to remember that we're here to play volleyball and keep focused."
Windom will face Chisholm, who defeated Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop in five games. However, the Bluestreaks (22-5) will face a Windom team that will be used to the surroundings and brings a high level of confidence.
"It was inbelievable; I can't really explain it. It was a great atmosphere, and it was all new, but we got used to it right away," Windom hitter Amy Robinson said of the venue. "We are very confident and very excited to play in the next round."
For Wheaton, it was the second year in a row the Warriors were defeated in the first round at state.
"It is disappointing (to not play well), but you look back and realize they are kids," Wheaton head coach Darla Thiel said. "We know that they can do better, but they are doing their best. It is disappointing, but we have to get over it and think about tomorrow."
Entering the match, Wendorff knew serving and serve receive were going to be keys.
"The thing that we really wanted to do was serve hard and serve receive well," Wendorff said. "We needed to do that, and boy, we served well and we certainly serve received well. We were able to keep pressure on them, and the kids were able to come out and focus."
Windom had 17 aces on the night, with six of those aces coming from Megan Ysker (13-of-14 serving, 17 set assists, six kills). Wheaton had just one service ace, which came from Whitney Boom.
"We struggled with their serve, and that was the key right there," Thiel said. "They were awesome servers, and they could serve wherever they wanted to. We tried to hide people, and it just didn't go our way; they are excellent servers."
Behind Ysker, Megan Mattison (17-of-17) and Allison Nau (16-of-18) each had four aces. Defensively, Karissa Borsgard had 17 serve receives and just one error.
Windom started the first game slow, with a mis-hit by Casey Christensen, as Wheaton scored the first point of the match.
"We were nervous at the beginning, but once the first ball went over, we were good," Courtney Ysker said. "I think we played our 'A' game, and we were on. We were playing to the best of our ability."
Trailing by a point, Megan Ysker took control. After she put home a kill to even the score at 1-all, she moved back to the service line. She rattled off five straight points, including three aces as the Eagles took a 6-1 lead.
"It was kind of funny. Casey had the first set to her, and she just kind of whiffed on it from nerves," Wendorff said. "But we had scripted that we would probably set her the ball first and she would probably get us a kill. Megan Ysker would go back and score about the first four serving. All except for Casey's goof-up, we had it perfect. It was just kind of fun. We had talked about how we want the game to start, and it almost did."
With back-to-back kills from Courtney Ysker (four kills) and Malori Paplow (nine kills), the Eagles forced a Wheaton timeout.
Leading 10-5, Windom put the game away. Behind the serving of Mattson, the Eagles ran off 11 straight points en route to a 25-7 victory in Game 1.
"I think we played really well; we started out well," Robinson said. "We felt really comfortable playing here."
Wheaton tried to disrupt the comfort level of the Eagles in the second game. Behind a kill from Boom (five kills), the Warriors were within one point early in the second game.
With Wheaton running off three straight points, Wendorff called a timeout to regroup the troops.
However, out of the timeout it was Wheaton that looked poised to win the second game.
With their lead down to just one point, the Eagles once again went on a game-deciding run. Christensen (seven kills, one block) ended a 9-1 run with a kill as Windom held a 20-11 lead.
Wheaton managed just three more points as the Eagles won Game 2, 25-14.
"We had great balance again at the net," Wendorff said. "I thought our kids did a great job defensively, we didn't let many balls hit the floor for us, and they really had to work for every point they got."
The Eagles used the balanced attack of Courtney Ysker, Christensen and Nau to jump out to a 7-1 lead in Game 3.
Behind an ace from Paplow, Windom held a commanding 14-5 lead midway through the game.
Trailing 24-11, the Warriors made a late run, but it was too little, too late as Windom won the third game 25-15.
"That's a good team playing good volleyball," Wendorff said of Windom's performance. "I'm totally pleased with our effort today."
Wheaton managed just 14 kills in the match, and just one from 6'-1" middle Sarah Hoppe.
"No question who the better middle was today," Wendorff said. "Casey owned the middle of the net and blocked her enough times. Casey was able to use all of her shots, and if you don't track her, she's going to get a good swing on the ball."
Windom will play at 1 p.m. on Court 1 again today, while Wheaton will face Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop at 1 p.m. on Court 2.