PREP VOLLEYBALL: Southwestern United defeats MCC in 5 games
LUVERNE -- Outscoring Murray County Central 31-10 over a momentum-changing stretch late in the fourth set and into the fifth game Friday night, the third-seeded Southwestern United Wildcats capped an incredible comeback with a thrilling 3-2 victory over the sixth-seeded Rebels in the quarterfinal round of the Section 3A South high school volleyball tournament at Luverne High School.
SWU (23-7) won on game scores of 26-28, 21-25, 25-21, 27-25 and 15-6, rallying from a 2-0 deficit that included a 21-11 hole in the fourth game. The Wildcats move on to play seventh-seeded Red Rock Central -- which upset second-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove in four games Friday -- in the sub-section semifinals Tuesday night in Luverne at 6 p.m.
"That was an outstanding match and an amazing effort from our girls to come back the way we did," summed up SWU head coach Christine Malm. "We expected another close contest with a solid MCC squad, and we were able to step up our level of play as the match went on. We were definitely determined to win, especially after we lost the first two games."
The Wildcats also claimed narrow wins over the Rebels -- who end their season with a record of 11-9 -- two days apart earlier this month, as SWU won 3-2 in a Red Rock Conference match Oct. 11 and then won 2-1 in the Subway Classic Oct. 13.
But it appeared that MCC was going to win this time around, as the Rebels led 17-9 in the first game and held on for a 28-26 opening victory. Some powerful play at the net by Kristi Bose (12 kills, 25 digs), Jade Giese (12 digs) and Taylor Schreier (19 digs) helped MCC take an early edge.
The Rebels broke away late from a 14-14 tie to win the second set by a score of 25-21. Bose had a tip and a kill to lead MCC down the stretch, while Lindsey Barritt (nine kills, eight digs) finished things with a left-side spike to the floor to make it 2-0 in favor of the Rebels.
MCC looked to complete the sweep and was up 8-3 in the third game, but SWU started to control the ball better and make sharper passes -- as well as put more serves in play -- to help ignite a turnaround.
Kailey Wendland (11 kills) smacked a kill, and Andrea Hinkeldey fired an ace serve to highlight a 10-4 Wildcats' run that gave them a 13-12 lead.
Courtney Place, who finished with 28 kills, 20 digs and eight blocks to go along with a 21-for-22 serving performance (two aces), then started to take over the net for SWU. She smacked a pair of kills, while Alyssa Hendrickson (17-for-19 serving, seven blocks) also had a kill to help the Wildcats extend the match with a 25-21 win.
Place scored on a pair of tips and a kill early in the fourth game, but MCC was in control and took a 10-5 lead. Kills from Barritt and Bose, plus an ace serve by Paris Thomas, helped extend the margin to 10 (21-11) a bit later, as the Rebels appeared to be on the verge of moving on.
However, SWU rattled off eight straight points with Place at the service line. Some big plays at the net by Hendrickson and Wendland trimmed the gap to 21-19 before MCC scored again.
Rachel Mathias had a tip and a kill for the Wildcats, but the Rebels maintained a slim lead and took a match point (24-22) after a big ace block from Barritt.
But back-to-back kills from Place -- off of quick sets from Mandy Henkels (53 set assists, 14 digs) -- helped keep SWU alive. The Wildcats took a 25-24 lead before a tip from Schreier tied it at 25.
SWU, though, scored the last two points and won 27-25 when Place hammered another kill -- sending the action to a fifth and deciding contest.
The Wildcats carried the momentum over and stormed to a 5-0 lead. Place had a big ace block and two kills for the first three points, and SWU later led 8-1 after an ace serve from Henkels.
Barritt smacked a pair of kills to bring MCC within six (11-5), but SWU was able to close out a 15-6 win in fairly easy fashion. The Wildcats scored 31 of the final 41 points after trailing 21-11 in the fourth game.