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Dragons, Falcons both advance in South Sub-Section 3A volleyball

WORTHINGTON -- Talk about good high school volleyball. The action was exciting and big-time plays were made by players from all four teams. But in the end, it was the two co-champions of the Red Rock Conference who each prevailed with 3-1 victori...

Adrian vs TMB volley ball web.jpg
Adrian's Bailey Lonneman (12) tips the ball over Tracy-Milroy-Balaton's Maddi Langerock (5) and Samantha Edwards (8) during their South Sub-Section 3A Volleyball match Tuesday in Worthington. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Talk about good high school volleyball.

 

The action was exciting and big-time plays were made by players from all four teams. But in the end, it was the two co-champions of the Red Rock Conference who each prevailed with 3-1 victories in the South Sub-Section 3A semifinals and will lock horns one more time - at Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall Thursday (6 p.m.) for the sub-section championship.

 

In the first match Tuesday evening, it was the fourth-seeded Red Rock Central Falcons defeating the top-seeded Windom Eagles by scores of 25-22, 13-25, 25-18 and 25-22.

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Adrian, the tournament’s second-seeded team, improved to 26-3 for the season with an impressive victory over third-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton. Game scores were 25-22, 25-17, 17-25 and 25-12.

 

Adrian and RRC (19-8) shared the Red Rock Conference title this year, both going 9-1 the highly competitive 11-team league. The Dragons defeated the Falcons in their only head-to-head meeting, 3-1, at Lamberton early in the season on Sept. 13.

RRC 3, Windom 1 Utilizing a strong serving game along with a diversified hitting attack, the Falcons looked sharp, especially in their eight-point victory in the third game and their 11-3 surge to close out the match in the fourth game after trailing 19-14.

 

“Our girls were well prepared,” declared veteran RRC head coach Sara Arfsten, who has guided lots of volleyball teams in her long tenure as an educator, including the last 11 seasons in her second stint with the Falcons. “We had a great week of practice leading up to our quarterfinal match with Murray County Central, and the girls were just really focused to execute our game plan. I am really pleased with how well we played.”

 

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Leading the Falcons at the net were a pair of young spikers as 5-10 sophomore outside hitter Nicole Schroepfer (11 kills. 24 digs) cracked her share of eye-opening daggers at the Eagles. Karli Arkell, a 6-1 freshman middle hitter (seven kills, three solo blocks, five assist blocks), was also a dominating force up front.

 

“You’ve got to give Red Rock a lot of credit,” said Windom head coach Crystal Fast. “They were ready to play and did a nice of hitting and blocking, along with digging up a lot of our hits.”

 

The Eagles were led up front by 5-8 senior outside hitter Victoria Christoffer (15 kills), who delivered the ball to the floor on numerous occasions, especially in Windom’s dominant win in Game 2.

 

“Tory really played well for us tonight,” Fast said. “She came through with several big-time hits when we needed them.”

 

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Katelyn Nichols, a 6-0 junior middle hitter (14 kills, four solo blocks), and 6-1 senior setter Becca Hacker (33 set assists, four kills, three solo blocks) also played the net well for the Eagles, as did 5-9 senior outside hitter Ella Brockman (five kills, five digs, three solo blocks) and 6-1 junior right-side hitter Autumn Hauge (five kills, five digs, 20-of-20 serving with two aces).

 

A sizzling spike by Schroepfer snapped a 16-16 tie in the opener, and the Falcons finished the set by scoring nine of the next 15 points.

 

Windom dominated from beginning to end in the second set, working to leads of 7-1, 12-4 and 17-7 before three consecutive plays at the net by Nichols (a kill and two blocks) stretched the margin to 22-10.

 

Game 3 was filled with tied scores until a kill (through a block) by Arkell and a tandem block by Arkell and Schroepfer gave RRC a 15-13 edge. The Falcons stayed ahead, and an ace serve by senior setter Kennedi Janssen (18 set assists) increased the lead to 23-17.

 

An ace serve by junior setter Halle Jackson (10 set assists) and a pair of well-placed hits by Christoffer capped a 7-2 Windom run in Game 4, putting the Eagles up by five points at 19-14. But the Falcons answered as 5-11 senior outside hitter Kaitlyn Rindfleisch (six kills) came up big with several smashing blows from the left side, helping trigger a match-winning 11-3 surge and advancing RRC to the championship match.

 

Senior setter Haley Simonson (20 set assists, six kills, 13 digs) played a stellar all-around match for the Falcons, and sophomore libero Bianca Weis (14 digs) was 20-of-21 serving with a ace. Arkell was a perfect 14-of-14 serving and 5-11 senior right-side hitter Vanessa Kedl contributed four kills, along with a trio of block assists.

Adrian 3, T-M-B 1 Displaying an effective all-around arsenal of hustle, communication and volleyball skills, Adrian rolled to impressive victories in the second and fourth sets - after winning a closely-contested opening set and playing from behind in a third set controlled by T-M-B.

 

“We came out ready to play and were prepared to play as a team,” summed up first-year AHS head coach Brittany Jackson (an assistant coach for the Dragons the previous three seasons). “We want to play a good all-around game with strong hitting and excellent defense. We had contributions from all 14 our players tonight, as it takes more than just the six on the floor. Our bench helped out a whole bunch.”

 

T-M-B took a quick 7-1 lead in the first game, but the Dragons responded with an 11-2 run and held a 12-9 lead after one of many thundering left-side kills by 5-9 outside hitter Miah Kunkel.

The Dragons continued applying the pressure with their assortment of hitters, who effectively received the ball from 5-7 junior setter Katie Tweet - who notched her 1,000 career assist early in the third game.

 

After the Panthers sliced the lead to 18-17, it was another powerful kill by Kunkel - who finished with a match-high 19, along with 17 digs and serving a perfect 15-of-15 - which gave the Dragons a 19-17 edge.

 

T-M-B reclaimed the lead on a middle kill by 5-10 senior middle hitter Samantha Edwards (15 kills, four blocks), 22-21, but Adrian - aided by a tandem block by Avery Balster (22 digs, five kills, four blocks) and Marissa Lehnhoff (11-of-12 serving, four kills) - closed out the set by scoring four of the next five points.

 

The Dragons practically put on a clinic in the second set, as everything seemed to click. They built leads of 11-7, 18-11 and 23-15 before winning by eight points, 25-17.

 

The opposite was the case in the third game, as the Panthers claimed an early 8-4 advantage and later opened up leads of 18-13 and 21-14 as Edwards, Jadyn Lessman (10 kills, two blocks) and Kylie Hensch (10 kills) continued pounding hits at the Dragons.

 

Adrian bounced back with authority in the fourth game, breaking from a 6-6 tie with an 11-3 run that gave the Dragons a 17-9 lead. An absolutely perfect pass from freshman libero Mayessa Tweet (16 digs, 11-of-12 serving) to Kasie Tweet to Lehnhoff for a classic bump-set-spike capped that AHS surge.

 

Later, a tanden block by Kunkel and Balster stretched the lead to 23-11 before a huge kill by Hensch gave the Panthers a spark. Two T-M-B errors followed, and the Dragons had earned their first-ever trip to play volleyball at SMSU.

 

“I was proud of how we finished after losing that third set,” concluded Jackson. “The girls did what they are capable of doing.”

 

Bailey Lonneman (nine kills, six digs), Shawna Rogers (16-of-17 serving, eight digs, three kills, three blocks) and Kasie Tweet (38 set assists, 16 digs and 16-of-16 serving with three aces) were also key contributors for the Dragons.

 

Maddie Langerock (15 digs) put up 38 set assists and Brooklyn Ludeman had a team-leading 23 digs for the Panthers, who finished with a 14-16 overall record.

 

“Adrian played really well, making great defensive plays all night long,” summed up T-M-B head coach Rick Haberman. “The Dragons do have a really good all-around team.”

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