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Section 3A volleyball: Balanced T-M-B tips MCC

Les Knutson

Daily Globe

MARSHALL — It’s a challenge to pick out the MVP on Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s exceptionally well-balanced high school volleyball team. Each of the players contribute — in a variety of ways.

“That’s how it needs to be for us to compete,” exclaimed a very happy T-M-B head coach Katie Gervais Thursday night after the Panthers completed their third straight Section 3A South playoff victory, sweeping neighboring Murray County Central in what could have been dubbed the Lake Shetek Bowl at the R/A Facility at Southwest Minnesota State University. “We have been very balanced all season long and that’s what makes us a good team.”

The top-seeded Panthers prevailed in a scrappy, hard-fought sweep, winning by scores of 25-21, 25-20 and 25-19 to claim the sub-section championship and advance to Saturday’s Section 3A title match against Minneota (28-3), which won the north sub-section with a 3-0 sweep of Central Minnesota Christian (25-11, 25-10, 25-14) earlier in the evening.

For T-M-B (21-12), it was their third consecutive sweep, having advanced with 3-0 wins over both Adrian and Southwest Christian.

MCC, meanwhile, had five-set battles with both Red Rock Central and second-seeded Southwestern United, the Red Rock Conference champion, to earn its way to Thursday’s title match.

“We’re glad we played well enough to win in three,” exclaimed Gervais. “I didn’t want a five-set match with them.”

While the Panthers won each set, the Rebels (17-5) rallied several times and had leads in the first two.

T-M-B, however, covered the court well and slapped spikes at the Rebels from all angles in a diversfied attack, which proved the team’s tenacity and amazing team play.

A fine example of that occurred in Game 1, with the Panthers holding a 9-4 advantage, involving the team’s three juniors.

Middle hitter Sammie Gervais saved a ball in the back row and libero Anna Peterson saved it from going out of bounce. Then, outside hitter Kassiday Przymus lofted the ball over the net – from the back line. The ball hit the floor on MCC’s side, giving T-M-B a six-point lead.

The Rebels, however, regrouped well and responded with an impressive 11-2 run, claiming a 15-12 edge — capped by senior middle hitter Lindsay Barritt’s ace block ending the longest rally of the night.

T-M-B’s balance helped the Panthers counter with a 13-6 surge, highlighted by kills from Pryzmus, eighth-grade outside hitter Sydney Lanoue and sophomore right-side hitter Sara Stoneberg.

Back-to-back kills by Pryzmus and Lanoue lifted T-M-B to an early 6-2 lead in Game 2, but the Rebels rallied with powerful kills by senior middle hitters Kristi Bose and McKenzie Schmitz to tie the score at six-all.

Later, a left-side kill by Lanoue put T-M-B on top, 10-8 and the Panthers opened up leads of 13-9, 21-16 and 23-19 before earning a five-point win to take a 2-0 edge in the match.

Sophomore middle hitter Jessie Nelson (team-high 10 kills) hit the back right corner with a spike and Lanoue (nine kills, one ace block) put one deep in the same corner after a one-arm save by the versatile Pryzmus (six kills, 12 digs).

Schmitz delivered an ace serve and Bose (match-high 11 kills) hammered some strong spikes to highlight MCC’s rallies during that span.

Pryzmus put down a kill and followed with an ace serve to spark T-M-B to a 5-2 lead in Game 3 and the Panthers never trailed.

Stoneberg (13-of-16 serving) delivered on of her three aces, which spread the margin to 11-6 and kills by Nelson and Sammie Gervais (seven kills, two ace blocks) helped the Panthers maintain leads of 13-10, 15-12 and 17-15.

The Rebels sliced the gap to 19-18 when Bose drilled a deep-corner kill, but the Panthers closed out the match on a 6-1 run as a right-side kill from Pryzmus, an ace serve by Stoneberg and a pair of middle kills by the six-foot Nelson highlighted the final burst.

“We’ve had some great practices,” concluded Coach Gervais. “Our hustle and our court coverage was good (tonight) and our balanced hitting attack gave us a boost.”

Freshman Gabbie Gervais set up the T-M-B hitters with 30 set assists, while Peterson (16-of-17 serving) came up with a team-leading 13 digs.

Barritt (seven kills, three blocks) played well at the net for the Rebels, while senior libero Hannah Schmidt was busy in the back row with a match-high 24 digs.

Bose came up with 18 digs, while senior setter Paris Thomas (12 assists, 15 digs) and junior setter Jade Giese (11 assists) distributed the ball to Bose, Barritt, Schmitz (three kills) and junior outside hitter Sierra VanIperen (three kills).

The Rebels graduate nine seniors, while the Panthers do not have a senior on their roster.

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