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T-M-B volleyball team edges HL-O/F in tense 5-setter

It’s a rare volleyball match when the winners are as satisfied as the losers, but that was nearly the case here Thursday night after Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s 3-2 triumph over Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda in the South Sub-Section 3A finals.

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MARSHALL — It’s a rare volleyball match when the winners are as satisfied as the losers, but that was nearly the case here Thursday night after Tracy-Milroy-Balaton’s 3-2 triumph over Heron Lake-Okabena/Fulda in the South Sub-Section 3A finals.

“We fought really hard,” said HL-O/F senior star Elly Bang. “I’m so proud of our team. We had an amazing season.”

So, too, has TMB. And it continues, thanks to a dramatic five-set triumph that appeared improbable both early and late. The Panthers dropped the first set and blew a big lead in the fourth before rallying to win it in the final race to 15.

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“It was scary,” said TMB junior hitter Amber Hensch, one of several Panthers who played especially well at the net. “You know, our last game we lost the first set to RTR and came back and won the next three. So that showed our grit. This game proved to us that if we keep trying, and we want it that bad, we can eventually push through. And that’s what we did.”

The Panthers of coach Paul Haberman improved to 23-8, defeating the Coyotes by scores of 20-25, 25-14, 25-22, 23-25, 15-12.

T-M-B advances to meet the powerful Minneota Vikings here on Saturday night at 7:30 for the Section 3A championship and a berth in the state tournament. Minneota (28-4) defeated Canby 3-0 in the North Sub-Section final here earlier Thursday night at Southwest Minnesota State University’s R/A Facility.

The Coyotes of HL-O/Fulda finished 22-7. Coach Trista Rhubee’s team went unbeaten en route to the Red Rock Conference championship and fell just short of earning a spot in the section championship match.

“It was a very intense battle, with a lot of heart and a lot of long rallies,” said Coyote coach Trista Rhubee.

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Both teams came from behind more than once in the match, played before an energized crowd of about 1,500.

“Elly played her heart out, I thought Sam Untiedt really stepped up and Emma Rasche made a lot of key digs,” Rhubee said. “Our girls were awesome. I did not want it to end, but it has to end sometime.”

The Coyotes took control early, winning the first set thanks in large part to a 6-0 run early on that featured Bang’s serving and several kills from sophomore hitter Marissa Becker.

The Panthers dominated the second set, at one point out-scoring HL-O/F 10-1 behind the spiking of Hensch and senior Sheridan Ludeman, plus the efficient setting of senior Maddi Langerock.

When TMB won the third set and breezed to a 16-9 lead in the fourth, it appeared the Panthers had won it. But the Coyotes came back, tying it at 19 and finally prevailing thanks to heroics from Becker, Bang and junior Madison Schumacher.

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Several TMB service errors contributed to the Coyote rally.

The fifth and final set was in doubt from start to finish, as the teams were tied at 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11.

Camille Dolan’s kill provided the final deadlock, at 1, and Hensch followed with a kill of her own. Dolan, a 5-10 senior, finished it with a kill as the TMB student section poured on the court to congratulate their Panthers.

“It was important we came out strong in the fifth set, because we felt like we had control in the fourth set until our serving game just abandoned us,” said TMB’s Haberman. “When (the Coyotes) stormed back like that, we knew they’d have a ton of momentum in the fifth set. We were fortunate to finish strong and beat an awesome team in HL-O/F.”

For the balanced Panthers, Hensch had 13 kills. Dolan and Ludeman each finished with 12 and Kiera Danielson had 11.

“That’s how it’s been all year for us,” Haberman said. “We’ve a well-balanced hitting team and our setter, Maddi Langerock, does a great job of setting up different people. It’s been something we can hang our hat on all year.”

Langerock finished with 43 set assists, while Danielson had 25 digs and Hensch added 22.

For the Coyotes, Becker had 10 kills and Untiedt added eight. Schumacher had eight blocks and Evers added six. Rasche had 24 digs, while Bang contributed 16 digs, 28 assists and three ace serves.

Bang is from Okabena, while Evers is a Fulda girl. The pairing has certainly been a success for the Coyote volleyball program.

“It’s been amazing,” said Evers. “I don’t think we’d even have a volleyball team if we didn’t pair.”

Said Bang: “Obviously we’re sad to see it end this way, but only one team in the state gets to finish with a win. I’m super proud of our team.”

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALL
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