Lady Jays capture exciting 5-set match with MState-FF
WORTHINGTON -- Height is often the deciding factor in volleyball.
But depth can count for just as much.
“We’ve got a good solid team here,” Minnesota West star Kiana Leighty said. “We’ve got a lot of options and a full bench we can work with.”
That bench came in handy Saturday afternoon as the Lady Jays edged powerful Minnesota State-Fergus Falls 3-2 in an emotional MCAC match at the Center for Health and Wellness.
Playing about 16 hours after losing a discouraging five-set match to Ridgewater College, the Jays rallied from two sets down to hand the fourth-ranked Fergus Falls Spartans a loss by scores of 20-25, 15-25, 25-20, 25-22, 18-16.
Leighty, a versatile 5-6 sophomore from Heron Lake-Okabena High, had 36 digs and 10 kills. She and teammate Tyra Medicine Horn, a 5-8 freshman who had six kills, nine digs and eight blocks, towered tall at the net in the closing moments of the all-important fifth set.
Medicine Horn’s kill saved a match point and evened the score at 15. Moments later she teamed with Leighty for a block that gave the Lady Jays a 17-16 edge.
Medicine Horn’s clean stuff block provided the match’s final point and ignited a jubilant celebration from a Minnesota West team that the previous night had suffered a devastating defeat.
“We needed that,” Lady Jays’ coach Brittney McNab said. “We’ve had a couple tough matches and we definitely needed this. And they worked hard all week to get here.”
There was no shortage of key contributors for Minnesota West. Freshman hitters Alanna Goetzinger and Coralis Ramos had 10 and eight kills, respectively. Sophomore setter Emma Woelber of Westbrook had 34 set assists, and her little sister Grace provided 25 digs -- several of which came after spectacular diving efforts in the back row.
“Being able to pick up all the balls I can has just been amazing,” Grace Woelber said.
Freshmen Teylor Albers and Paetyn Smit, the latter a former Edgerton High star who finished with seven kills, also had some key moments for McNab’s squad.
“Our bench definitely helped,” McNab said. “It takes all 16 of them, and today we needed them all.”
It was just the second loss of the season for Fergus Falls, which fell to 13-2 overall and 4-2 in MCAC South Division play.
Fergus Falls coach Abby Crowser was in no mood to discuss the match afterward.
“We shouldn’t have lost, that’s it,” she said.
The Spartans dominated early, trailing only a few times while taking the first two sets in runaway fashion. The Fergus Falls frontline of 5-11 Hannah Ekse, 5-9 Alexa Mortenson and 5-11 Katherine Mastey demonstrated considerable spiking success early on.
“We were on our heels and every little thing was getting us,” said McNab.
But in the third set, with the Spartans off to a 13-8 lead and seemingly headed for a sweep, the Lady Jays found a spark. Ramos, a 5-7 hitter from Puerto Rico who hasn’t had extensive playing time in recent weeks, led the Jays on a 12-0 run.
“She’s come out of the woodwork,” McNab said of the southpaw-swinging Ramos. “We can put her anywhere: she can put a block up, and once she swings, yes, she’s (effective).”
Medicine Horn was, too.
“She comes to play,” McNab said. “Her head’s always in the game.”
Smit’s play at the net provided the winning point in Set 3. The former Flying Dutchmen star then had the kill that clinched the victory in Game 4.
Leighty, Medicine Horn, Smit and Goetzinger all had crucial highlights in the deciding set.
The come-from-behind triumph undoubtedly gave Minnesota West some confidence.
“We started off really slow, which we tend to do quite often,” said Leighty. “We don’t get in our groove until we find what their weaknesses and top priorities for hitting are. Game 3 was a big game-changer. We talked a lot more and knew where we were supposed to be on defense and got our hits around the blocks.”
The Jays, who improved to 8-4 and 2-3, hope to continue to improve. Is there room for that?
“Absolutely,” said Leighty. “We love to play and we’re going to keep working hard.”
Minnesota West plays host to Western Technical College Wednesday night at the Center for Health and Wellness.