PREP VOLLEYBALL: Tigers tame Trojans, 3-0

MARSHALL -- Using two extended runs to claim a convincing victory in Game 1 Thursday night, the Marshall Tigers took command early and then fought off the Worthington Trojans in a pair of closely-contested games to earn a three-set sweep in a key...

MARSHALL -- Using two extended runs to claim a convincing victory in Game 1 Thursday night, the Marshall Tigers took command early and then fought off the Worthington Trojans in a pair of closely-contested games to earn a three-set sweep in a key Southwest Conference volleyball match.

Game scores were 25-9, 25-21 and 25-18, all in favor of the defending Class AA state champion Tigers (8-5, 1-2).

"This was a good win for us, as we played well against a quality opponent," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said after the match. "Worthington is a good team and does several things very well. The Trojans are going to win a lot of matches this year."

Worthington (8-3, 2-1) finished the match strong after a somewhat one-sided opening game. The Trojans were within a point (20-19) late in the second game and sustained their competitive spirit in the third game, trailing by five points (22-17) in the late stages once again.

"It was nice to see the girls stay focused and battle back like they did," Worthington head coach Melissa Schutz said. "We have some things to clean up, though, as we did struggle at times. We made some mistakes that we just can't afford to make against top-level teams like Marshall."


Schutz pointed to the Trojans' serving as a highlight, as Worthington missed only one serve in each of the first two games. Taylor Heidebrink (7-for-7, three aces), Kristen Andersen (6-for-7, two aces) and Martha Alwal (5-for-6) led the Trojans at the service line.

Heidebrink (10 set assists), Andersen (eight digs, five kills) and Alwal (nine kills, four blocks) contributed in other areas, as well. Mackenzie Gerber added four kills and three blocks, while Megan Juber came up with seven digs, Meagan Meier dished out six set assists, and Angela Robinson charted two blocks for Worthington.

Tiger impressive in opener

Worthington had a pair of one-point leads (2-1 and 3-2) in Game 1, as Alwal knocked down two kills sandwiched around an ace serve by Heidebrink.

Marshall, though, scored 11 of the next 12 points to take control. Morgan McKittrick (13-for-14 serving, nine digs, five kills and two ace blocks) delivered a pair of kills to help the Tigers build a 13-4 advantage, as Madi Critchley (17-for-17 serving with an ace) rattled off seven straight service points.

Worthington rallied briefly, trimming the gap to 14-9 a few moments later. An ace block by Gerber and an ace serve by Andersen gave the Trojans a lift in that stretch.

But Marshall answered with an 11-0 surge to end the game, winning by a 16-point bulge (25-9). Jessica Baker (11 digs, nine set assists, five kills and two ace blocks) and Kenzie Beekman (11 kills, three ace blocks) combined to score five of those points with plays at the net, while McKittrick was doing the serving for the Tigers.

"We really served well and put a lot of pressure on in that first set," Westby said. "We also did a nice job of scoring points when Martha Alwal was not on the court for Worthington. That's something that we didn't do as well during the second game."


Trojans hold lead four times in Game 2

Worthington took a 2-0 lead in the second set, with Samantha Thuringer serving. Alwal had an ace block to account for the Trojans' second point.

That was the first of four times that Worthington led in Game 2. A kill by Alwal and an ace serve by Juber put the Trojans up 6-5 a little bit later.

The Trojans were up 8-7 with the help of a kill from Andersen, as the score remained close. Marshall also had the lead four times early on (3-2, 5-3, 7-6 and 9-8).

Worthington's fourth lead of the game (10-9) came after a tip by Andersen. The Trojans then maintained the advantage until the scoreboard showed 13-12, with Meier and Andersen delivering ace serves to provide a spark.

Marshall, though, regained the lead and was up 16-13 behind a trio of kills by Beekman. The Tigers increased the margin to five points (20-15), as Sydney Griffin (15 set assists, six ace blocks and five kills) scored on an ace block after setting up Beekman for another hard smash.

However, the Trojans fought back with a 4-0 burst. Alwal pounded two kills, Heidebrink dropped in an ace serve, and Juber cracked a hard hit for a point to bring Worthington within one (20-19).

It was 22-20 three points later, and Marshall was able to close out a 25-21 victory. Beekman, McKittrick and Griffin each had a kill late in the game to key the Tigers.


"This was not an easy win for us tonight," Westby said. "It was a hard-fought win, that's for sure. Worthington kept coming at us with aggressiveness and determination, but we found a way to get the job done in the end."

Marshall builds lead, completes sweep

The third set was similar to Game 2, as the teams went back-and-forth early on. Marshall, which always held a slight edge (beginning with a 2-0 lead), gradually opened up the margin to seven points midway through.

The Tigers, who led 15-8 near the halfway point, opened up their largest lead of the game (20-11) a bit later. Baker, Beekman, McKittrick and Griffin continued to lead the way for Marshall's offensive attack.

Worthington, though, responded with a 6-2 spurt that trimmed the gap to five (22-17). Gerber was the Trojans' catalyst in that sequence, smacking a pair of kills and scoring on an ace block.

Andersen and Heidebrink added a kill apiece, while Meier served for three straight points and later dropped a deep shot to the floor in Marshall's back row.

But the Tigers held off Worthington's rally and secured a 25-18 victory, completing the sweep to pick up their first conference win of the season.

Alyssa Netzke and Allison Culhane collected 12 and nine digs, respectively, for Marshall. Netzke was also 13-for-13 serving with an ace.


"Marshall is a solid team, give them credit," Schutz said. "We may not have played our best volleyball throughout the match, but we did give a great effort like always. We will keep working hard in practice and get ready for what next week brings."

Worthington, which lost for the first time in league play, returns to action Monday. The Trojans will travel to Spirit Lake, Iowa for a non-conference matchup.

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