SWU, MCC prepare to start swinging into postseason
It was a tight race for the Red Rock Conference volleyball title this fall and Southwestern United finished its league schedule unscathed. Coming in closely behind was Murray County Central.
The two teams battled each other earlier this month, and SWU prevailed in a five-set match. Both teams join a host of others as Section 3A postseason volleyball begins. The Wildcats and Rebels await the winners from first-round matchups, which are scheduled for Monday evening.
SWU comes in as the second-seeded team in the south sub-section of Section 3A, and they will play in Windom on Friday night against the winner of Monday’s match in Westbrook between seventh-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove and 10th seeded Hills-Beaver Creek.
The SWU Wildcats finished the regular season at 24-4-1. All four of the Wildcats’ setbacks came early in the year. JCC swept SWU in the season opener for both schools, and then SWU fell to Waconia, Andover, and Tracy-Milroy-Balaton, which is the top-seeded team in Section 3A. Three of the four losses came at the Southwest Minnesota Challenge in Marshall.
“I love the fact that we started our season off right away with a tough match. Our season opener was against Jackson County Central. They play great, tough defense and offense,” SWU volleyball coach Christine Malm said. “Playing JCC showed the girls how fast-paced of a game they need to play if they want to keep up with those bigger teams.
“When we played T-M-B at the Southwest Minnesota Challenge early in the season, we lost 1-2,” Malm said. “Their girls were a lot smaller than us, but they were very quick and very smart. Seeing that reminded us that our height isn’t always enough to beat a good team.”
The Wildcats made a clean 10-0 sweep through the Red Rock Conference this fall, with their toughest matches within the conference coming in four-set wins over Southwest Christian, Red Rock Central and Westbrook-Walnut Grove.
After her team has had time to look back on its conference title run, Malm said she feels her team’s entire schedule has prepared the team well to possibly make a deep run in the postseason.
“I general, I give the Red Rock Conference credit,” Malm said. “Playing in a competitive conference helps every team become better.”
Moving forward, the Wildcats hope to continue to band together as a team, like they have thus far. The team has contributors of all ages helping to make things work. One of them is junior Courtney Place.
The goal, Place said, is to get to Marshall — where the sub-section finals take place —for another year.
“This season we really focused on momentum and passion. We realized as a team we need to play with heart to be successful. Our coaches have pushed us hard throughout the entire season, but now that playoffs are coming up, we need to push ourselves,” Place said. “We hope to make it to Marshall for a second time this year, and keep our hearts in the game.”
The Rebels from MCC take a 9-1 conference record into the playoffs, with their only blemish coming in their five-set loss to SWU. They are 15-4 overall and are assured a conference opponent in the playoffs — at least for the first two matches they will play.
MCC has been led offensively at the net with 256 kills from senior Kristi Bose. Bose has also turned in team-bests with 34 blocks and 26 aces. Senior libero Hannah Schmidt has 362 digs for the year and Paris Thomas has 273 set assists.
While these are a few leaders, MCC has nine seniors on its roster this season. The balance of its 14 player roster is juniors.
“I really think that a lot of our success is due to our seniors,” MCC volleyball coach Kati Bobeldyk said. “Their leadership has been helpful. I have been very pleased with how hard we have played, especially in this last half of the season.”
The Rebels will square off on Friday against the winner of a match set for Monday between sixth-seeded Red Rock Central and 11th seeded Edgerton.
When asked whether a first round bye is a team’s friend or foe in the playoffs, Bobeldyk said the answer remains to be seen.
“We’ll be watching the other game but will be spending our practice time working more on our offense so that we’re more aggressive and less predictable,” she said. “It gets to be a lot of practice time, but we will see when we play. It will all depend on the girls’ attitudes.”
Elsewhere in the sub-section, T-M-B sits with a first round bye and will play Friday in Luverne against the winner of Monday’s match in Ellsworth between the eighth-seeded Panthers and ninth-seeded Adrian. Southwest Christian sits as the fifth seed and hosts Fulda (12) on Monday night with the winner advancing to Luverne on Friday against Wabasso (4).
Windom Area enters Section 2A play next week with a first-round bye. The Eagles are seeded third in the south sub-section. They will host, on Thursday, the winner of a Monday match in Alden between Alden-Conger and Truman. Mountain Lake Area is seeded seventh in the sub-section and opens postseason play on its home floor Monday night, facing 10th seeded Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley.
For Windom, coach Ron Wendorff will work to rally the troops after a heartbreaking sweep his team suffered Thursday evening at home against a strong Minneota team. The Eagles carry a 16-9 record into their regular season closer Monday night at Blue Earth Area.