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PREP VOLLEYBALL: Tigers trip up Worthington

Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Worthington's Kristen Andersen (10) hits over Marshall's Angela Tauer during Thursday night's volleyball match in Worthington.1 / 2
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Worthington's Tara Svalland follows through on a kill as Marshall's Morgan McKittrick attempts a block during Thursday night's volleyball match.2 / 2

WORTHINGTON -- Mackenzie Gerber knows Marshall is a good team.

But the senior on Worthington's volleyball team also knew the Trojans gave away too many free points in Thursday night's match.

"I think we did OK," Gerber said following the Trojans' 25-8, 25-7, 25-14 loss to the Tigers. "Ultimately, I think we beat ourselves because it was unforced errors. Marshall is a good ballclub. But I think we could have stuck with them a little better."

Worthington had streaks where it was able to put points together, but fell too far behind early in games.

"We had a lot of unforced errors and when you do that, it starts to get you to play a little more cautious and when you play cautious, you just don't play the way you can play," WHS head coach Melissa Schutz said. "We were kind of too cautious the whole night and we were on our heels. When you play that way, it doesn't turn out well. We just have to play our game and not worry about who is on the other side of the net."

The Tigers (13-4, 3-0) came into the Southwest Conference match as the No. 1-ranked team in Class AA.

"I felt like we were a little scared in the beginning, which is normal," Gerber said. "We just wanted to go out there and keep the momentum going and not worry about the scoreboard and focus on what we needed to do."

In the third game, the Trojans did just that and had a nice run of points midway through.

"They put some pressure on us with the serve and kind of had us on our heels there," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "I think they ran off a streak of about five points in a row. This was not what we expected tonight. Worthington is a good team and they are going to win a lot of matches this year. It was just one of those nights where things didn't click for them early and they had a difficult time getting it back. But they are a good team."

The Tigers jumped out to a 9-1 lead, forcing a WHS timeout in Game 3.

But out of the timeout, the Trojans were able to make a rally, and a kill and a block by Gerber brought the Trojans within four points, 13-9.

"We stopped worrying about what they were doing and we focused on what we were doing and what we needed to do to get back," Gerber said.

Gerber (three kills, two blocks) had another block and another hit later as the Trojans were still within striking distance, 17-12.

"In my whole career of playing volleyball, we've never won one single match against Marshall and I wanted to get that one match," Gerber said. "I never will, but at least I tried."

MHS ran off a quick four points to lead 21-12, but the Trojans battled through the final point.

"We talked about playing point by point and not worrying about the scoreboard and just play as hard as you can when you're out there," Schutz said. "We got a couple of those points and got a couple more in a row. They can do it, it's just a matter of getting mentally into it the whole time."

The Tigers opened Game 1 by building a 16-2 lead.

Kristen Andersen (three kills, 6-for-6 serving, one ace, six digs) had a kill, but MHS led 24-5 late.

Mandi Vote (6-for-6 serving, once ace) had an ace serve late in the game, but it was the Tigers who were able to close out the win.

"They are an amazing team and they have a lot of power," Schutz said. "They have great ball control skills. You have to really work hard to get a kill. You have to work hard to get an ace on them. We got a couple aces on them, but we just have to set the ball up more so we can run our offense and they can't set their offense up so well and have three options at us the whole time. It's really hard to block when they have three options as you. They are a good team."

Morgan Johnson had a kill early in Game 2 as WHS trailed 5-3. However, the Tigers scored the next eight points to lead 13-3.

"We saw Worthington play the other night against Spirit Lake and we have nothing but respect for them and their coaching staff," Westby said. "I think a couple things happened and they kind of got back on their heels early and had a difficult time rallying. I think if there's a situation where the two of us meet again, I think it will be a completely different situation."

Andersen had an ace serve a few points later and Tara Svalland had a kill, but a trio of points by Sydney Griffin and a kill by Morgan McKittrick sent the Tigers to the victory in Game 2.

"It started with the pass," Gerber said. "It always starts with the pass, but our serve receive was a little rough tonight, but everything was a little rough all around. We need to sharpen the edges and clean it up."

Taylor Heidebrink had eight digs and six set assists for the Trojans, while Ana Koepsell had seven digs.

Westby knows there is a chance his team could face the Trojans again down the road.

"We have run into them during section play the last number of years and they are a good team," he said. "There's no doubt in my mind that they will rebound and they will come back."

WHS (9-5, 3-1) is at St. James for a tournament on Saturday. Monday, the Trojans travel to Murray County Central before returning to conference play on Tuesday against Jackson County Central.

"Now we know what it takes to play these top-level teams. We'll be more prepared for Tuesday," Schutz said. "It takes ball control and it takes those small details to be a good team. We're going to work a lot on skills and we're going to progress and we're going to keep working to build our team."