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Prep volleyball: Trojans focused, but fall to Marshall

WORTHINGTON — The Worthington Trojans knew that if they were to have any chance against the Marshall Tigers Thursday night, they’d have to be highly focused.

They were.

But being focused, communicating well and maintaining a high level of intensity isn’t usually enough against the top-ranked Class AA volleyball team in the state. Marshall defeated the Trojans in Worthington, 25-14, 25-6 and 25-12.

“We played well. That was probably our best mental game of the year, as far as staying focused. We got a consistent effort out of all our kids tonight,” said WHS head coach Jessica Hogan.

The Trojans were fired-up right out of the chute. Senior setter Paige Gravenhof opened the match from the service line with three points and, helped out by some good blocking up front, Worthington had a quick 3-0 lead before MHS could put a point on the board. While the Trojans started strong, Marshall didn’t. It wasn’t until halfway through the first game that the Tigers, with their dominating 5-10 senior hitter Kenzie Beekman leading the way, began to wrestle control away from the home team. A soft spike by the normally hard-hitting Beekman was good for the Tigers’ 24th point, and the 25th was scored on a Worthington serve that floated harmlessly into the net.

Even though Marshall won the second game 25-6, the game was punctuated with some lengthy rallies. The Trojans, having some difficulty with serve receiving, never appeared to get demoralized. Still fighting, still communicating, they fought back. They just didn’t have the firepower to stay alongside their Southwest Conference rivals.

In Game Two, Marshall started well. Lexi Saugstad served her team to a 6-0 lead and the Tigers’ defense took over from there. Worthington’s hitters, led by Brooke Henning and Becca Linder, produced some fine hits that would have been points against most other teams, but the Tigers covered the court like a blanket.

In the third game, Marshall’s court coverage was maintained. The Tigers led 9-0 before the Trojans could find a crack in it, but by then the visitors could see victory in sight. Worthington cut the Tigers’ early advantage to 15-7 but could get no closer. A Marah Mulso block accounted for the winning point.

Sometimes losses can improve a team — if it’s against a superior team and the attitude is positive. That’s what Hogan was hoping for after the dust had settled.

“Game two, they really got moving on offense and hitting the ball well. Up until that point I thought we really played well. We had some really long rallies and we really hustled on defense,” Hogan said, adding, “Our goal is to be playing our best at the end of the year, and today was a giant step in that direction.”

The Trojans have an 8-10 overall record. They are 1-3 in the Southwest Conference.

Gravenhof finished 9-for-9 serving with five points and one ace. Linder was 6-for-6 with two points and an ace. Henning led the team with four kills while Linder had three, Whitney Jensen two and Tracy Prins two. Gravenhof was also credited with nine set assists. Linder had four blocks.

Henning had 18 digs while Gravenhof had 13, Abbie Landgaard 10 and Paige Kinley eight.

Marshall head coach Dan Westby said he was impressed by Worthington’s focus.

“We were a little bit sluggish early on. And Worthington saw that and took advantage. We kind of pulled ourselves out of it in that second set,” he said.

“There were three things we said we wanted to do in this match,” Westby went on. “One was to have focus. Another one was to have energy. And another one was to have effort. And for some of the match, none of those were present. The good thing about our team is we have a number of kids who can put a good swing on the ball. That just puts a lot of pressure on the defense.”

Worthington’s next match is Monday at Canby.

Doug Wolter

Doug Wolter is the Daily Globe sports editor. He served as sports reporter, then sports editor, news editor and finally managing editor at the Daily Globe for 22 years before leaving for seven years to work as night news editor at the Mankato Free Press in Mankato. Doug now lives in Worthington with his wife, Sandy. They have three children and seven grandchildren. Doug, retired after a lengthy career in fast-pitch softball, enjoys reading, strumming his acoustic guitar and hanging around his grandchildren. He also writes books on fiction. Two of his stories, "The Genuine One" and "The Old Man in Section 129" have been distributed through a national publisher.

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