PREP VOLLEYBALL: Huskies prevail in 4WORTHINGTON – Thursday’s Section 3AA South Division volleyball title match featured No. 1-seeded Jackson County Central and No. 2-seeded Windom squaring off in a classic battle that featured hard hitting, long rallies and tough defenses.
By: Lance Knutson, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON – Thursday’s Section 3AA South Division volleyball title match featured No. 1-seeded Jackson County Central and No. 2-seeded Windom squaring off in a classic battle that featured hard hitting, long rallies and tough defenses.
In a contest between two familiar Southwest Conference foes, it was JCC prevailing in four sets by scores of 25-18, 17-25, 25-20 and 25-21 to advance to the Section 3AA title.
“We knew tonight’s match was going to be a battle,” Huskies’ head coach Teresa Van Epps said. “It’s always a battle with Windom.”
JCC (24-5), which finished second in the SWC and defeated Windom in four sets during the regular season, used a kill from Sydnee Donnelli to take an early 5-4 lead in the first game.
Donnelli (7-for-7 serving with one ace, two blocks and six kills) extended that lead to 10-4 for the Huskies, serving an ace, while Kaylee Burmeister and Jasmine Erickson each recorded a kill in that stretch.
Windom, which had scored early points on a kill from Kelsey Hanefeld (seven kills) and a combined block from Shelby Mattson (seven blocks) and Leah Hacker, stopped the JCC run on a kill by Mattson (13 set assists, 16 digs).
However, the Huskies extended that lead to 19-8 as Burmeister gave herself the serve with a kill and the senior outside hitter scored five straight points. Lydia Brandt (six kills, two blocks) recorded two kills in that span, while Donnelli added a kill and Sarah Brandt (two blocks) and Donnelli combined for a pair of ace blocks.
Burmeister (one ace serve) led JCC with a match-high 17 kills and added three blocks.
Holly Larson (14 kills and four blocks) used a kill to halt the Huskie run and the Eagles began to chip away at the JCC lead.
“We got out 19-8 in the first set and all of sudden, Windom caught on fire,” Van Epps said.
“They caught us in a poor rotation – a rotation that’s generally played well for us – but they got us in that rotation and served the outside seam on us. Next thing you know, they have eight points to our four and they were right back in the set. That was momentum for them in the second set.”
Rachel Sorenson (six set assists) used the serve to get Windom within 19-12 with Larson recording another kill, but JCC extended its lead to 22-12 with Kathryn Nasby (21 digs, 11-for-11 serving) and Donnelli each recording a kill.
Hanefeld (15-for-16 serving with four aces) took over at the service line with the Eagles trailing 23-13 and brought Windom within 23-18 with a nice run, helping herself with an ace and a kill, while Hali Tasler (eight kills, six blocks) added a pair of kills and Mattson scored on a kill.
However, kills from Donnelli and Erickson (11 kills) closed out the first set for the Huskies at 25-18, but the momentum the Eagles had built late in the set helped them rally in the second set.
Windom opened the second set by taking a 5-0 lead with Mattson (14-for-17 serving with two aces) at the service line and Tasler recording a block and two kills for the early bulge.
An ace serve from Rachel Johnson (9-for-9 serving with an ace), along with kills by Burmeister and Donnelli helped JCC cut the Eagle lead to 7-6 before blocks by Larson and Mattson stretched the lead to 10-6.
Hanefeld recorded a kill and an ace to push the lead to 12-7 – a lead the Eagles maintained the rest of the second set.
Following a kill from Erickson to cut Windom’s lead to 16-15, Miki Bolin gave the Eagles a five-point spread at 20-15 with a service run that included kills by Larson and Mattson.
JCC got within 21-17 after kills by Erickson and Michelle Van Epps (15-for-15 serving, 15 digs, 33 set assists and four kills), but a Tasler kill gave Jasmine Carlson the serve and the sophomore libero finished off the set at 25-17.
Carlson (29 digs) scored on ace serve for the final point of the second set, while Tasler and Sorenson added kills late.
“They took it to us in the first set and we didn’t play real well,” Windom head coach Ron Wendorff said. “They got the first set on us pretty handily. In the second set, we really jumped out on them and made them play from behind. Our goal was to get leads on them and make them play from behind. We did that in the second set and we were able to finish.”
The Eagles again jumped out to a lead in the third set as Tasler (16-for-17 serving with one ace) garnered a block, while Hanefeld scored on a kill and Sorenson added an ace for a 5-1 margin.
A pair of kills by Burmeister along with Windom miscues helped the Huskies tie the third set at 7-7, but strong net play helped the Eagles push the lead to 14-9. Hanfeld scored two kills, while Mattson added an ace serve and Larson scored on a kill during that stretch.
JCC kills by Sydney Nyborg (two blocks), Lydia Brandt, Burmeister, and Erickson helped the Huskies get within 17-16.
A pair of Eagle errors following a Leah Hacker kill helped JCC tie the score at 18-18 before Windom gained a 20-19 lead after a Larson kill.
“We did the same thing in the third set (as we did in the second set) by getting them to play from behind,” Wendorff said. “We led for almost all the match until about 20-20, but they were able to find a way to find a way to score the last five points.”
However, Burmeister tied the game at 20 with a kill and served the final five points with an ace and a trio of kills by Lydia Brandt closing out the set at 25-20.
“It was a battle and the girls were warriors tonight,” coach Van Epps said. “They came out and overcame adversity in the third set. That was a big set to get and we were behind until late in the set.”
With a 2-1 lead in the match, the Huskies again fell behind early in the fourth set at 5-2, but rallied to tie it at 5-5 early.
Kills by Larson gave the Eagles their early lead, while the Huskies received two kills from Burmeister.
Windom claimed leads of 7-4 and 10-7, but JCC responded each time to keep the set close, eventually retaking the lead following a nice service run by Donnelli to make it 12-10.
Erickson came up big for the Huskies in that span with three kills, while Burmeister added two kills and Michelle Van Epps added one kill of her own.
The Eagles countered to take a 14-13 lead following a pair of errors on the Huskies and an ace serve by Mattson, but that was the last lead of the night for Windom.
Michelle Van Epps extended the Huskie lead to 19-14 with a service run of five points following an Eagle service error.
“We were able to stay loose in the fourth set and capitalized on some of Windom’s mistakes,” coach Van Epps said. “We pushed the ball deep and started to make them move. We got back to the game plan and kept them moving.”
Larson slammed a kill to halt the JCC run and a block by Hanefeld and kills from Sorenson and Hacker helped Windom narrow the gap to 21-18.
A kill by Burmeister and a pair of hitting errors by Windom put JCC within match point, but the Eagles refused to go away.
A pair of Huskie errors and a service ace by Hanefeld allowed the Eagles to close the gap to 24-21, but a hitting error on Windom finished the match at 25-21.
“The fourth game was back-and-forth, back-and-forth and again they got a little bit of lead on us midway through,” Wendorff said. “But our kids never gave up and nearly made a set of it at the end.
“We got beat by a real fine ball club. I was pleased with our kid’s effort as they played hard and gave everything they had.”
Windom, which finished third in the conference, ends its season with a record of 22-8.
JCC advances to play in the Section 3AA title game against another familiar foe in the Marshall Tigers.
Marshall (25-5), which won the Southwest Conference and defeated Montevideo in the Section 3AA North final in three sets, took the regular season meeting with JCC in four sets on Sept. 13 (18-25, 25-20, 25-16 and 25-23).
“Marshall has a great team,” coach Van Epps said. “They have a great libero that we need to keep the serve receive from and they have some solid swingers. They are a solid squad that is always strong.
“We’ve battled with them for the past six years and we anticipate a tough match. We need to stay loose and move our feet. It definitely will be a point-for-point match.”
JCC and Marshall will play for the section championship Saturday at the RA Facility on the campus of Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall. Match time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.