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Trojans prepare for tough test in Tigers

WORTHINGTON -- Even after a sweep at the hands of Southwest Star Concept to end the regular season, the Worthington Trojan volleyball team is prepared for the opening-round of the section 3AA playoffs.

"That was just ugly with a capital U," Worthington head coach Jen Clark said of the SSC match. "I think it was good for us, too. I think if it was going to happen, that was a good time for it to happen. We knew SSC was going to be tough, but we did not come ready to play."

However, the road will not be easy for the Trojans (17-8). They will face the fifth-rated team in class 2A, the Marshall Tigers.

"It is a tough team, but we knew that," Clark said. "Going into this sub-section, we knew that we would face a tough opponent the first round. That's the way the cards fall for us."

The two teams will face off Friday night in Pipestone, with game time set at 7:30.

Worthington hosted Marshall early in the season, with the Tigers earning a sweep.

"We started out and stuck with them until we got to about 11 or 12, and things started to fall apart," Clark said of the meeting. "I think one of the biggest things is we have to maintain our level of play through the whole match."

To prepare for the playoff contest, the Trojans used the earlier match to learn from their mistakes.

"Monday we didn't practice, we just watched tape," Clark said. "We looked at some things and made a game plan and talked about where we were going."

For Worthington to be successful, the Trojan defense will have to find an answer to the potent Marshall attack.

Rachel Westby had 12 kills in the first time around, with Anna Full chipping in 11.

"Blocking is something that we've worked on throughout the season, and there have been times that we've struggled with it," Clark said. "After watching tape and looking at their tendencies, hopefully, we'll be able to set up better and get on top of it."

Even though Worthington suffered a 25-12, 25-14, 25-14 loss, Clark still looks at the experience as a benefit.

"I think it's an advantage, especially us playing with them for the first part of the game," Clark said. "I think that it also gives a sense that they're not quite so intimidating. It still is intimidating, there's no getting around that, but I think it takes some tension off."

With every match the potential conclusion of the season, it will mark the end of an era for Clark.

She announced that this will be her last season at the helm of the Trojans, as she is relocating to Wyoming with her family.

"We're not even talking about it. It's so hard, and I don't want them to think about it. I want them to play well and do well," Clark said. "When everything is all said and done at the very end of the season, then we can talk about it, but not until then."

Clark, who has been the Trojan coach for six years, said it was a dream for her to be able to teach and coach, as she did at Worthington.

"Something that I always wanted to do was to teach at the elementary and coach at the high school. I think you get the best of both worlds," Clark said. "I love that I get to deal with my second-graders all day, but it's refreshing for me at the end of the day to go to practice and be with the high school girls. You have a different connection with them because they are older. They have a different understanding, and that reasoning is there. I have loved having the best of both worlds."

But for Clark, there may still be opportunities to coach at her new home.

"Time will tell. We'll see what happens and get our feet settled a little bit before we jump into anything too crazy," Clark said. "I think the opportunity is there, but I'm not ready to give it up completely yet."

Clark doesn't feel the team will be distracted.

"Our focus is the task at hand," Clark said. "That's where we're going, and that's what the job is."

For Friday not to be the last time Clark roams the sidelines, Worthington will have to maintain the level of intensity.

"We're really going to have to talk and keep that intensity level up," Clark said. "A lot of it is our communication, and so many things tie into that. When you're talking, you're moving well, and that communication really pulls everything together. That's the biggest thing."

Offensively, the Trojans will need to be on top of their game.

"We know that we're going to have to swing," Clark said. "We can't tip and give them free balls, so we have to be aggressive offensively."

But regardless of the outcome of the first meeting, anything can happen in the playoffs.

"We get to start a new season," Clark said. "It's tournament time, and everything is different."