PREP VOLLEYBALL: Vikings advance to state with win against Windom
MARSHALL -- For the first time in her career, Courtney Ysker's volleyball season won't end at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Falling 3-0 to Minneota Saturday night in the Section 3A championship, Windom's bid for a third consecutive state to...
MARSHALL -- For the first time in her career, Courtney Ysker's volleyball season won't end at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Falling 3-0 to Minneota Saturday night in the Section 3A championship, Windom's bid for a third consecutive state tournament berth came up one match short.
"It's kind of sad," Ysker said of Windom's 25-22, 25-19, 25-21 loss to the Vikings. "I wanted it really bad."
On varsity since she was a freshman, Ysker was on Windom's runner-up team in 2007 and last year's state championship team.
But facing a tough Minneota squad, the Eagles fell in three close sets.
"It's really disappointing for my seniors and for all of them," Windom head coach Ron Wendorff said. "They've worked hard and have done a great job in our program; I just can't commend those two young ladies enough. MaKenzie (Lovell) and Mikayla (Bergendahl) have been our leaders all year long and they've just kind of molded the young ones around them a little bit."
The two teams are hardly strangers.
Saturday marked the third consecutive year Windom and Minneota have met in the Section 3A finals.
"We've been in this match with them three years in a row, and they won two of the last three," Minneota head coach Stephanie Hennen said. "My girls were yelling all week, 'Third time's a charm.'"
The teams had met this year as well, with Minneota sweeping Windom.
"After that game we made some switches," Wendorff said. "We brought up Holly Larson to play middle for us and switched some things around. Since that time, I think we've really come a long way. We're kind of a different team and we were hoping that we'd be able to continue the run that we'd been making. I think we'd won 11 or 12 in a row."
Using an experienced and balanced team approach, the Vikings (26-5) will now advance to the state tournament. They earned the No. 2 seed for Thursday's opening round.
"We got beat by a very good ballclub," Wendorff said. "Minneota is very solid; all of their positions are very, very solid. Some of those kids have played three or four years. We saw those same kids two years ago playing against us and we maybe took a little bit of advantage of their youth a couple of years ago. Now, those kids are seniors and juniors playing against some of our ninth and 10th graders. That's kind of the way it works."
Early Saturday, it looked like Ysker might guide Windom back to state.
"I was just going to go all out," Ysker said. "Just do anything I could for the team and leave it all out on the floor."
Ysker finished with a team-best 17 kills and six digs for Windom.
She scored the first four points, as the Eagles jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the first set.
That lead increased to 10-4 after an attack error on Minneota, but the Vikings weren't to be denied.
Leah Fadness (17 kills, 19 digs) had an ace to cut the deficit to one point, 14-13 -- forcing a Windom timeout.
After losing the lead, the Eagles regained the momentum, leading 19-18, but Minneota finished on a 7-3 run, taking Game 1, 25-22.
"I thought we played pretty well, but I thought we came out a little bit tight," Hennen said. "I think we were down in every set and battled back. I guess that was all right."
The Vikings had an early lead in Game 2, but again, Windom battled back, taking a 10-6 lead after a kill by Lovell (six kills, five ace serves).
But a kill by Haylee Davis gave Minneota an 11-10 lead midway through the set.
Windom answered with a kill by Abby Hayenga (five kills, 19 set assists), a block by Larson (two solo blocks, two block assists) and an ace by Ysker to take a 13-11 lead.
"I thought our kids really played hard and they didn't give up," Wendorff said. "When we have a chance to take a look back at this season, I think we're going to be real satisfied with how far we came."
A Ysker kill gave Windom an 18-17 lead toward the end of the set, but Minneota finished on an 8-1 run to win 25-19.
"The first game we were all ready to go and pumped," Ysker said. "After coming back from the loss, it was hard. We kind of got down."
Consecutive kills by Ysker gave Windom a 12-8 advantage in Game 3, and that lead stayed at four points (13-9) a short time later.
However, the Eagles were stuck at 13 for what seemed like an eternity as Minneota went on an 11-0 run, taking a 20-13 lead.
Lovell had a pair of aces late in the game to bring Windom back, but the Eagles couldn't overcome the lead in a 25-21 loss.
"We made a nice run at them at the end and that's what makes me extremely proud of these kids and that's what makes me convinced that we're going to be OK in the future," Wendorff said. "These kids don't like to lose."
Minneota, which has been in the section championship nine consecutive years -- winning six of those matches -- will face Parkers Prairie on Thursday. For Hennen, who has been coaching in the Minneota program for 20 years, it will be her first trip to the state tournament in her second year as a head coach.
"It was fun anytime we went to state in the past, but this was a little bit different," she said. "My daughter is on the team; it's pretty darn cool."
Bergendahl finished with eight digs and was 12-for-12 serving with two aces. Amber Sebring had seven digs.
Windom finishes with a 24-6-1 record, and with just two seniors, returns a strong nucleus next season.
"This is the first year that we've played together, so we just had to get used to everything," Ysker said. "But we did really good with how young we are. We only have two seniors, so we'll be back next year."