PREP VOLLEYBALL: Falcons soar past Chargers in South quarterfinalsLUVERNE — Passing the ball and swinging aggressively at the net, the steady-playing Red Rock Central Falcons overcame a fast start by Westbrook-Walnut Grove Friday night in the second of two Sub-Section 3A South high school volleyball quarterfinal matches at the Luverne Elementary School Gymnasium.
By: Les Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Passing the ball and swinging aggressively at the net, the steady-playing Red Rock Central Falcons overcame a fast start by Westbrook-Walnut Grove Friday night in the second of two Sub-Section 3A South high school volleyball quarterfinal matches at the Luverne Elementary School Gymnasium.
After top-seeded Southwest Christian had earned a three-game sweep over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the opener, the two Red Rock Conference schools took the court in a highly-anticipated rivalry match.
W-WG, powered by the spiking of sophomore outside hitter Dayna Comnick, looked sharp during most of the first game.
But as the match progressed, RRC assumed control by playing well in several facets, including digging up lots of attacks by the Chargers and doing a good job passing the volleyball to senior setter Alison Kircher, who put up a match-high 25 assists.
The Falcons, who split with the Chargers during the regular season, ended up winning in a sweep and will advance to Tuesday’s semifinals, earning the chance to tangle with Southwest Christian — in the same gym — at 6 p.m.
Game scores were 25-22, 25-20 and 25-16.
“We knew coming in that we would need to pass well,” exclaimed RRC head coach Sara Arfsten. “For the most part, we did a good job with that. We also wanted to play aggressively at the net and swing hard, trying to keep them on the defensive and ‘out of system’ — which worked out well for us.”
The Falcons (18-8) were defeated by the Chargers 2-1 at the Jackson County Central tournament Sept. 17, but beat their rivals at Westbrook in a conference clash on Sept. 29, 3-1.
The loss was one of just two during the entire conference schedule for W-WG, which earned a 2nd-place trophy with a sparkling 9-2 league record.
The Falcons lost three conference matches and finished fifth among the conference’s 12 teams, just one game shy of a three-way tie for second.
So, having faced each other twice already and with the season on the line, the atmosphere was intense as the match opened Friday.
Comnick smacked a kill to start Game 1, but the Falcons quickly countered with a 6-2 run to stake themselves to an early advantage.
Back-to-back kills by Karley Deprez (three ace blocks) and Maddie Frank (four kills, four set assists) helped the Chargers knot the score at 7-7.
RRC took a two-point edge on a left-side kill by Chloe Arfsten (10 digs, 14-of-18 serving, three aces) and a sizzling ace serve by Katie Larsen.
The lead stretched to 13-8 on a right-side kill by Kircher, but Comnick (12 digs, team-high eight kills) tied the score at 13-all with her fifth kill of the night.
An ace serve by Hailey Osland and an ace block by Deprez were two other big plays for the Chargers during their comeback.
Deprez came up big on the next play, ending a long rally with another ace block, giving W-WG a 14-13 edge, as she capped a 6-0 run for the Chargers.
“Karley did a good job at the net, she was moving her feet and scrambling,” praised W-WG head coach Cathy Baumann. “She had a lot of touches, as she covered well in the front row for us.”
But after a lift was called on the Chargers and RRC libero Brooke Rasmussen (team-high 11 digs, 13-of-14 serving) served one of her three aces, the Falcons were back on top, 15-14.
After hitting a spike out, RRC finished Game 1 with a 10-7 run, highlighted by a pair of kills by Klarissa Larsen (team-high 13 kills) and helped by several W-WG hitting errors.
The Chargers stayed close with a set kill by Anne Woelber (15 assists), a left-side kill by Paige Erickson (11 digs, four kills), a well-placed middle kill by Osland, an ace serve by Frank and a strong middle kill by DePrez — off a set by Woelber.
Riding the momentum of its closely-contested opening game victory, the Falcons surged to a 4-0 lead in Game 2 and later battled back from a 15-13 deficit with a 12-5 closing run.
A middle kill by Larsen (set Kircher) and an ace serve by Chloe Arfsten tied the score at 15-15, and then Rasmussen made three great digs in a row, which eventually ended with a Falcons’ point when Larsen’s spike attempt was blocked out of bounds.
“Brooke played a nice match, saving a lot of balls for us with her play in the back row,” praised Coach Arfsten. “That was a big point we earned after she dug the ball up three times in a row.”
Back-to-back ace serves by Rasmussen helped the Falcons to a 3-0 lead in Game 3 and the power hitting of Larsen was a key factor in RRC building a 9-3 advantage.
A pair of stellar plays by Kircher — digging up a spike and then digging the ball out of the net — on the same rally, allowed the Falcons to win another key point, as they began to get command of the match.
An ace serve by Cassandra Erickson and several well-placed middle hits by Kendra Hagert (eight kills) helped RRC stretch its leads to 15-6 and 20-10.
W-WG rallied briefly, but a back set from Kircher to Larsen for a right-side kill and an ace serve by Larsen ended the game with a nine-point RRC win, clinching the match.
Tegan Derickson contributed nine digs in the match for the Falcons and Larsen had a pair of block assists, along with a solo stuff.
Comnick (11-of-11), Osland (10-of-10) and eighth-grader Abby Herding (9-of-9) were each perfect at the serving line for the Chargers, who finish a fine season with an overall record of 19-10.
“The girls should be proud of themselves for the season they had,” summed up Baumann about the Chargers. “They won a lot of matches and worked hard at improving all year long.”