3AA VOLLEYBALL: Tigers upend Huskies, 3-1

REDWOOD FALLS -- The Redwood Valley gymnasium was electric Thursday night as Class AA No. 1-ranked Jackson County Central and No. 2 Marshall faced off in the Section 3AA volleyball semifinals.

JCC's Briel Hendricksen
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe Jackson County Central's Briel Hendricksen (5) hits over Marshall's Jessica Baker during Thursday night's Section 3AA semifinal volleyball match in Redwood Falls.

REDWOOD FALLS -- The Redwood Valley gymnasium was electric Thursday night as Class AA No. 1-ranked Jackson County Central and No. 2 Marshall faced off in the Section 3AA volleyball semifinals.

The student sections cheered and jeered.

Every play ended with dives and high fives.

And for awhile, it looked as though the Class AA state championship came nine days earlier than it was supposed to -- for two sets, anyway.

But after splitting a pair of close games 25-20 and 23-25, Marshall outscored JCC 50-27 in the next two to win 3-1 and advance to the section championship.


"It's tough to know what happened in those last two sets," Huskies' outside hitter Briel Hendricksen said. "I wish we could have fixed it and I wish I could've known what was wrong, but it's hard to say."

"It just came down to who had the most enthusiasm," setter Jasmine Timko added. "I don't think we played as 'fun' as we could have played. We played intense, but I think we should have had some excitement."

The Huskies (26-2) and the Tigers (25-3) had both been building towards this matchup, especially after JCC had beaten Marshall in a five-set thriller earlier in the season.

"JCC's an outstanding team," Tigers' head coach Dan Westby said. "We had a lot of respect for them coming in; we went and scouted them six times. We felt as though, if we were going to beat them we needed to have a good handle on what they do, so we put in our time with them."

"JCC and Marshall are the two best teams in the state," Huskies' head coach Teresa VanEpps said. "Our backs were put against the wall (Thursday) came down to intensity and not being fully prepared for the energy in this gymnasium."

VanEpps had to call a timeout earlier than she anticipated after Marshall jumped out to an 8-1 lead in Game 1.

"We had four hitters out of sync (Thursday)," VanEpps said. "We were down 8-1 and we had five hitting errors. It wasn't our serve receive, it wasn't our defense, our hitters just weren't finishing."

But the Huskies clawed their way back, and tied things at 11 after back-to-back ace serves by Timko.


Marshall then answered with a 9-4 run and back-to-back aces by its own serve specialist, Kelsey Michelson.

This time, JCC couldn't bounce back.

Outside hitter Whitney Burmeister failed to recover a pass that sailed over her head and out of bounds, giving the Marshall the final point it needed for a 25-20 win.

Burmeister would get another chance in the second set, though, when she swatted the game-winning kill.

Her shot ricocheted off a Tiger defender and ended a back-and-forth game that brought six ties and four lead changes.

The Huskies knotted the set at eight, 11, 16, 20 and 22, only to have Marshall reclaim its lead every time.

But JCC finally cleared the hurdle after an Erika Voss kill tied it at 23.

A Tiger hitting error and Burmeister's shot evened the match at one game apiece.


Marshall's outside-hitter Tina Tauer had to be carried off the court midway through that second set after twisting her ankle going up for an attack.

The Tigers, though, made sure their teammate's injury wasn't in vain.

Kayla Wallerich racked up three kills and an ace serve and Marshall grabbed an early 10-3 lead in Game 3.

The Tigers never looked back, rattling off eight straight points and shellshocking the Huskies with a 25-10 set victory.

The third set was a drastic change from the first two, which featured several back-and-forth momentum swings.

But Marshall started covering the outside, forcing JCC's attackers to aim towards the middle -- where Rachel Westby was lurking.

"It was tough, because last time we played them they were blocking cross-court, which left the line open for us," Hendricksen said, "and they had one of their best defenders, Rachel Westby, on the cross-court shots, and she's digging up everything."

"Marshall is a phenomenal defensive team," VanEpps said. "Our girls hit the ball hard, and when you pick up that stuff, it will take your thunder, and it will take it quickly.


"They send balls back over that most teams don't send back over."

In the final game, Marshall's 9-1 tear gave the Tigers a 14-6 advantage. That proved to be too much for the Huskies to overcome, and Westby fittingly drove home the last kill to make the tally 25-17.

JCC had only lost two sets in their previous 23 matches, dating back to its only other defeat of the season, 2-0 to Shakopee on Sept. 12.

In fact, the Huskies only lost nine sets the entire season.

Five of those came at the hands of Marshall. It's also the third straight year that the Tigers have ended JCC's postseason.

It's been a fantastic run for the Huskies' senior class, though, which has compiled a 72-12-1 record over the past three years.

In a way, VanEpps is a senior herself at JCC -- this is her fourth year there.

"Our seniors, I came to JCC in the spring of their freshman year," VanEpps said. "Briel Hendricksen, Erika Voss, Stacey Schuller, Jasmine Timko, Chelsey Mitchell, Mollie McClure -- all six of them are just fabulous individuals.


"Not only on the volleyball court but off the court, too. As parents you're proud of them, as a coach you're proud of them, and the school and community should be proud of them."

JCC's Kaylee Benson
Aaron Hagen/Daily globe Jackson County Central's Kaylee Benson (6) hits past the block of Marshall's Dani Beekman (14) during Thursday's match.

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