PREP VOLLEYBALL: Patriots defeat Dragons in 5ADRIAN — In an entertaining classic featuring a pair of evenly-matched teams Monday night, the ninth-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots claimed a thrilling five-set victory over the eighth-seeded Adrian Dragons in the opening round of the Section 3A South high school volleyball playoffs.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
ADRIAN — In an entertaining classic featuring a pair of evenly-matched teams Monday night, the ninth-seeded Hills-Beaver Creek Patriots claimed a thrilling five-set victory over the eighth-seeded Adrian Dragons in the opening round of the Section 3A South high school volleyball playoffs.
Game scores were 25-18, 20-25, 28-26, 15-25 and 15-11 in favor of the Patriots, who improve to 6-17 overall and advance to take on top-seeded Southwest Christian Friday night (6 p.m.) in Luverne.
“This truly was an awesome win for us,” summed up H-BC head coach Mary Jo Graphenteen after the match. “Both teams played outstanding and there were so many shifts in momentum throughout all five games. You can’t ask for much more if you enjoy volleyball, as that was a lot of fun to watch and to be a part of.”
Adrian, which ends its season with a record of 8-17, claimed a narrow three-set sweep (25-23, 26-24 and 25-23) over H-BC back on Sept. 11. The Patriots then earned a five-set victory (19-25, 26-24, 25-23, 21-25 and 15-12) over the Dragons just nine days later, as the competitiveness between these two teams is simply astounding.
“We match up very well, as indicated by the three close contests that we played and by the tournament seeds,” Adrian head coach Cheryl Fey said. “This was an exciting volleyball match with a lot of ups and downs, and it’s too bad that we came up short. But I am sure proud of the effort that our girls gave all night long and for a great season, as well.”
Several players on each team came up big on numerous occasions. H-BC was led by Meghan Leuthold (10 kills, three blocks), Haley Van Wyhe (nine kills), Jessica Sandbulte (five kills, 12 digs) and Hattie Van Wyhe (four kills, 26 digs) at the net and in the back row.
Sandbulte (22-for-22) and Haley Van Wyhe (15-for-15) were both perfect from the service line for the Patriots, and so was Paige Leuthold (17-for-17) in addition to distributing 30 set assists.
Courtney Vaske led Adrian with 18 kills, 22 digs and seven ace blocks, while Rachel Kontz charted 39 set assists, 16 digs, four ace blocks and an 18-for-18 serving performance that included a pair of aces.
Carly Wolf (30-for-31 serving with seven aces, 11 kills and 12 digs), Corie Reckamp (13 kills) and Elizabeth Thier (15-for-16 serving, 10 digs) were among the other statistical leaders for the Dragons, who won both of the even-numbered games.
After splitting first two sets, H-BC wins key third game 28-26
The Patriots won all three of the odd-numbered games in the back-and-forth affair and broke away late to take the opening set. H-BC held an early 5-3 lead thanks to kills from Meghan Leuthold and Haley Van Wyhe.
Adrian scored the next five points to go up 8-5, as a kill by Vaske, a tip by Reckamp and an ace serve by Wolf sparked the Dragons in that stretch.
Back-to-back blocks by Paige Leuthold were then followed by a kill apiece from the Van Wyhe sisters — Haley and Hattie — to help H-BC regain a 10-8 lead. The Patriots later maintained 15-12 edge on the strength of a tandem block (Meghan Leuthold and Kelli Esselink) and an ace serve by Paige Leuthold.
Adrian stayed close and was within one (18-17) behind a tip from Reckamp, but H-BC closed on a 7-1 burst to secure a 25-18 win. Esselink smashed a big kill and then fired an ace serve to trigger that spurt, while a tip from Hattie Van Wyhe and an ace serve from Haley Van Wyhe were other late-game highlights for the Patriots.
“Every player on the court contributed in some way,” Graphenteen said. “Whether it was getting a hand on the ball for a crucial dig or making a key play at the net, all of our girls hung in there and found a way to win together.”
Adrian, though, countered and led from start to finish in the second game. Behind the strong serving of Kontz and Reckamp, the Dragons bolted out to leads of 3-0, 9-2 and 11-4.
An ace serve by Wolf and a left-side kill by Reckamp gave Adrian a 16-9 cushion a bit later, but H-BC rallied to within a point (20-19). Sandbulte scored on a tip and an ace serve to help the Patriots’ comeback bid.
However, the Dragons put together a solid finish and wrapped up a 25-20 win. A pair of tips by Bailey Grussing preceded back-to-back kills from Reckamp and Vaske — off of sets from Kontz — to help even the match at a game apiece.
The third set was never separated by more than three points until H-BC took a 19-14 lead. A couple of ace serves by Meghan Leuthold aided the Patriots in a late sequence that time.
But Adrian ripped off the next six points and went ahead 20-19 after a big kill from Vaske. The Dragons later held a game point (24-22) after an ace block from Thier.
H-BC, though, fought back with three straight points and eventually prevailed with a 28-26 win. Taylor Wingert came in to serve the final two points for the Patriots, including firing an ace to give them a 2-1 advantage.
“That was a really key win for us,” Graphenteen said. “Again, there were a lot of momentum swings on both sides. I think that our serving and serve receiving were both really good, and we did it well in some pressure-packed situations many times to come out on top.”
Adrian answered back and was in command for most of the fourth game. Vaske started to wreak some havoc at the net to help the Dragons build leads of 7-4, 11-6 and 17-11, while Reckamp, Thier and Kontz also made big plays.
Wolf then hammered two kills and dropped in two ace serves to help widen the gap to 25-15 by game’s end, as Adrian tied the match at two sets each and forced a winner-take-all decisive contest.
H-BC got out of the gate well to begin the fifth game, receiving kills from Sandbulte and Meghan Leuthold to take a 7-2 lead. It was later 10-4 after a kill by Hattie Van Wyhe.
Adrian responded with five straight points to make it 10-9. A pair of well-placed tips by Vaske benefitted the Dragons, as did a tip from Reckamp and an ace serve from Wolf.
An ace block by Paige Leuthold gave the Patriots an 11-9 lead, and after Adrian tied it with two straight points, H-BC scored the final four points to escape with a 15-11 win — emerging from the thriller with a 3-2 victory.
“I’m really proud of and happy for this team,” Graphenteen said. “We are going to enjoy this for a few days and then go and give it our best on Friday. We also certainly want to tip our hat to Adrian for being a tremendous opponent — not only tonight, but for the entire season.”