PREP VOLLEYBALL: Wildcats take down FalconsLUVERNE — Quickly jumping out to big leads in each of the first two sets Tuesday night, the third-seeded Southwestern United Wildcats earned a three-game sweep (25-21, 25-16 and 25-18) over the seventh-seeded Red Rock Central Falcons in the semifinals of the Section 3A South high school volleyball tournament.
By: Lucas Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
LUVERNE — Quickly jumping out to big leads in each of the first two sets Tuesday night, the third-seeded Southwestern United Wildcats earned a three-game sweep (25-21, 25-16 and 25-18) over the seventh-seeded Red Rock Central Falcons in the semifinals of the Section 3A South high school volleyball tournament.
SWU improves to 24-8 and advances to the sub-section championship match Thursday night (6 p.m.) when it will take on fifth-seeded Russell-Tyler-Ruthton — which moved on with a thrilling 3-2 win over top-seeded Southwest Christian Tuesday — at the R/A Facility on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall.
“I’m so happy right now, as we played very well throughout the entire match,” said SWU head coach Christine Malm, who celebrated her 23rd birthday with the win. “This is the best birthday present that I could have asked for, as the girls came out strong and played outstanding team volleyball.”
With Mandy Henkels (11-for-11 serving, eight digs) setting up the offense for a total of 31 set assists, the Wildcats attacked at the net from a variety of angles and hit the ball through the block of the Falcons several times. Courtney Place (11-for-11 serving, nine digs) led SWU’s powerful approach with 15 kills.
Alyssa Hendrickson (10 kills, eight blocks) and Andrea Hinkeldey (eight digs, five blocks) were among the other statistical leaders for the Wildcats, while Rachel Mathias, Kailey Wendland, Autumn Hinkeldey, Sarah Baumgard and Alisa Carlson also made key contributions for SWU.
“The Wildcats have a good team and played really well tonight,” RRC head coach Sara Arfsten said. “They started out so well in the first two games, and we were able to hang in there a little better in the third set. But we just couldn’t get over the hump.”
Katie Larsen (seven kills), Chloe Arfsten (five kills, 15 digs), Fern Engen (four kills), Brooke Rasmussen (six digs, 11-for-11 serving), Tegan Derickson (11 set assists) and Mikaela Smith (six set assists, 16-for-16 serving with three aces) topped the stat sheets for the Falcons, who end the season with a record of 14-13.
Wildcats take early leads of 7-1, 9-2 and 13-5 in Game 1
SWU, which came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat sixth-seeded Murray County Central in the quarterfinals last Friday night, got out of the gate well Tuesday night — scoring the first five points of the match on a nice service run that included an ace by Autumn Hinkeldey.
The Wildcats increased that 5-0 lead to 7-1 on an ace block by Place and later led 9-2 on a middle kill by Place. SWU stayed in command, getting a kill in the middle from Mathias to take a 13-5 advantage and force an RRC timeout.
“We mastered the comeback against MCC, and we wanted to get off to a better start in this match,” summed up Malm. “That was one of the things we focused on in practice, and I think it showed in the way we played. Overall, this was probably one of the best matches that we have played all year long.”
A couple of tips by Place made it 16-7 a bit later, but RRC closed the gap to three with a 6-0 burst. Arfsten and Engen each smacked a kill, while Smith served for five straight points to help bring the Falcons within 16-13.
A tip by Henkels was then followed by another ace serve from Autumn Hinkeldey and a thundering middle kill by Place, triggering a 4-0 spurt to put SWU up 20-13.
Larsen and Cassandra Erickson knocked down kills to keep RRC close (down 24-19) before an ace serve by Derickson helped make it 24-21 — leading to a timeout by the Wildcats.
SWU, though, closed out a 25-21 win when Place — who earlier blasted two more kills in the middle to help keep the Wildcats ahead — scored on a tip for the final point.
SWU surges to 11-2, 14-3 cushions in
The Wildcats showcased a well-balanced attack to begin Game 2, again storming out to an early edge. Place hammered a kill on a free ball for the first point, while Hendrickson scored on a couple of tips to give SWU a 5-1 lead.
Andea Hinkeldey (left-side kill, ace block), Baumgard (back-row tip), Hendrickson (middle kill) and Wendland (left-side kill) produced big plays over the next stretch and widened the Wildcats’ lead to 11-2. It was soon 14-3 after two more kills from Hendrickson and Andrea Hinkeldey off of sets from Henkels.
“We were aggressive with our hits and did not settle for many tips over the blockers,” Malm said. “We hit right through the block many times, which we were able to do by controlling the ball with good defense and nice passes to set up our attack.”
SWU continued to control the action and led 22-10 behind several kills from both Place and Hendrickson.
RRC briefly put the brakes on with kills from Larsen, Arfsten and Engen — as well as an ace serve by Smith — to cut the margin to 24-16.
But the Wildcats scored the last point to secure a 25-16 win for a convincing 2-0 lead.
RRC hangs tough throughout Game 3, but SWU pulls away late
The Falcons took their only lead of the night (2-1) early in the third set and stayed right with the Wildcats for most of the game.
SWU did take a 5-2 lead and never relinquished the advantage, but RRC was within one (8-7) and later tied the score at 15 after Smith fired back-to-back ace serves.
Kills from Larsen and Engen helped keep the Falcons within striking distance prior to that sequence, which capped a 7-2 run for RRC.
But a kill from the left side by Andrea Hinkeldey gave the Wildcats a 16-15 lead, and an ace block from Wendland made it 18-15.
A huge ace block by Engen and a tip from Erickson again brought RRC within one (18-17), but a kill by Mathias and two straight ace serves by Andrea Hinkeldey for points 24 and 25 allowed SWU to wrap up a 25-18 win to complete the sweep.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Sara Arfsten said. “We had a nice season and won a pair of exciting playoff matches, making it to the round of four in a pretty tough sub-section.”