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Section 3A South volleyball: Tracy-Milroy-Balaton hits keep coming

WORTHINGTON -- The Tracy-Milroy-Balaton volleyball team isn't short on hitters. In Monday's Section 3A South semifinal victory over Southwest Minnesota Christian, five different players had at least six kills for the Panthers. But for the hitters...

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AARON HAGEN/DAILY GLOBE Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s Sydney Lanoue (11) goes up on an attack during the Panthers’ 3-1 Section 3A South semifinal win over Southwest Minnesota Christian Monday. The sophomore finished with 19 kills.

WORTHINGTON - The Tracy-Milroy-Balaton volleyball team isn’t short on hitters.
In Monday’s Section 3A South semifinal victory over Southwest Minnesota Christian, five different players had at least six kills for the Panthers. But for the hitters to have a chance, it starts earlier in the possession.
“We want to focus on passing,” T-M-B senior Sara Stoneberg said. “We want the first touch to be good on every possession, otherwise we won’t be able to get a good set and we won’t be able to get all the hitters involved.”
Sydney Lanoue led the Panthers (28-5) with 19 kills, while Evelyn Dolan had 10 kills. Stoneberg had eight, while Sidney Karbo had seven and Kendra Ludeman had six as nearly every Panther possession ended with an attack.
“That’s kind of our goal, that if your first touch isn’t the best, better that second touch and always try to get a swing on it,” T-M-B head coach Katie Gervais said. “Our girls have gotten a lot better with that this year instead of throwing free balls over. We have a tendency to error sometimes when we have that mentality, but I think that’s better than giving them a free ball.”
The Panthers earned a 25-11, 22-25, 25-12, 25-12 victory, ending SWC’s season with a 17-12 record.
“I’ve been telling the girls all year that they can play with these teams,” SWC head coach Brian Busker said. “Slowly as the year went on, we started to believe it. You can see that in the way we started playing, winning out conference and beating Westbrook last Friday. I told them we have to be aggressive to beat them. They are very controlled and they don’t make many mistakes. Really the only way to beat them is to take it right at them and keep them on their heels so they are not getting all those swings at you.”
After taking the first game, T-M-B found itself in trouble in the second set. A kill by SWC’s Mariah Talsma tied the score early, but the Panthers had a 13-9 lead not long after. Midway through, T-M-B had an 18-13 advantage, but the Eagles weren’t going quietly. Hope Veldkamp had a pair of aces and a kill by Ann Pater had SWC back in the game.
“In Set 2, we struggled serving,” Stoneberg said. “We missed a lot of serves and they kept us on our toes and kept a lot of pressure on us. They forced us to have to come out stronger.”
The Panthers led 22-18, but SWC scored the final seven points to win 25-22.
“We were hoping to minimize our mistakes and in the first game we had too many and we weren’t getting quality swings,” Busker said. “In Game 2, I felt like we finally started to get aggressive. All of a sudden we had a three or four point swing and we got back in the game. I was proud of the girls that they took a game. I think that proves some things to some people.”
T-M-B jumped out to a 10-5 lead in Game 3 and never looked back to take a 2-1 match advantage.
“I thought we really picked it up and started talking,” Stoneberg said. “Gabbie (Gervais) distributed the ball well, (Sydney) put the ball down, (Evelyn) put the ball down, Karbo put the ball down and Kendra put the ball down. We mixed up our hitters and got the job done.”
The Panthers closed out the match with a 25-11 victory in Game 4 to advance to Thursday’s sub-section final against Windom in Marshall.
“We just want, no matter what, to come out strong against every team,” Stoneberg said. “If we give it our all every game, no matter the outcome, if we give it our all, that’s how it’s going to end up.”
Gervais finished with 42 set assists, nine digs and was 21-for-22 serving with two aces for T-M-B, while Lexi Tauer was 15-for-16 serving with two aces and 10 digs. Kaylee Kirk had 21 digs. Ludeman was 23-for-25 serving with two aces.
For SWC, Pater had seven kills and eight digs, while Kassydi Vreeman had four kills and Veldkamp had 16 digs.
“It’s always tough when you lose that last game,” Busker said. “But it was a game that they deserved to be in. We didn’t go out early, we didn’t lose to a team that we felt we should have beat. We lost to a very good, quality team. If you’re going to lose that’s the way to do it.”

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