Volleyball: Pioneers find a way to sideline Polars

Frenzied fans witness battle for conference crown

Wally Wakefield
Review staff

Hill-Murray 3 - North 2

If you were not a part of the jam-packed, wildly cheering crowd at Hill-Murray Field House Oct. 15, then you missed one of the very best volleyball matches between rivals that has been played since the inception of the sport over three decades ago.

The match went five games and provided everything that anyone could ever ask for from two well-matched adversaries.

At the end of the match the coaches—Tim Walen of Hill-Murray and Steve Anderson of North—praised their opponents.

“That’s a great North team we just beat,” stated Hill-Murray coach Walen shortly after the Pioneers squeaked past the Polars, 3-2.

“We played with a lot of poise. It was not our best match and it was not perfect, but we try to get over our mistakes and bounce back. We were able to do that tonight.

“We kind of felt like underdogs knowing what North could do. Those smiles and tears you see there (pointing to the gathered Hill-Murray players) show what this victory meant to them,” Walen said.

Meanwhile, Anderson stated, “It was a great match. We fought hard. They fought hard. Both teams gave a great effort right to the end.

“We certainly had our chances. We just couldn’t close them out. Hill-Murray fought hard, that’s for sure!” Anderson said.

One could feel the electricity in the gymnasium even as the teams were being introduced.

Heading into the contest the only loss this season that North (9-1) had in the Classic Suburban Conference was to Hill-Murray.

Hill-Murray was sporting a CSC mark of 9-0. For the Pioneers, a loss would have meant they would share the fifth straight conference title with North.

Evenly matched

As game one got underway, neither side was willing to give an inch.

The game was tied no less than 11 times; the last time was at 17-17.

At that point, a set by Kennedy Fabian and a huge kill shot by Rachel Kueppers gave Hill-Murray the serve. Ellie Schwartz served an ace. A combination block by Kueppers and Raven Ousley-Brown, and Hill-Murray moved to a 20-17 advantage—the first time in the entire game it was more than two points since early on.

North picked up a point before the Pioneers got the serve and added two more. Again North picked up a point before the serve came back to the Pioneers.

A couple of long volleys were won by Hill-Murray before a set by Kueppers and kill off the hand of Marisa Franco won the game in favor of the Pioneers, 25-19.

If game one featured long volleys and excitement, it only set the stage for game two.

The whistle blew and it got underway with the standing-room-only crowd becoming even more boisterous.

The teams parlayed for an advantage but none was forthcoming. Game two was knotted up on no less than 15 occasions.

At 23-23, a set by North’s Holly Ellwanger was followed by a near vicious slam to the floor by North senior outside hitter Talia Jaskulske. The pair duplicated the effort for the next game-winning point, and North won game two by the slim margin of 25-23 to knot the match at one game apiece.

Atypically, from the outset game three left little doubt which team was in command. The Pioneers broke from a 5-5 tie and began to score points in bunches as they played with confidence and precision, and won 25-14.

The teams switched sides, and it was as if a switch was thrown and the advantage shifted to North.

Clara Krenz went to the service line. When she began, North was down 3-2. When she moved back into a position slot North had gained a 10-3 margin.

The Polars took all the momentum away from the Pioneers as they surged to a 15-7 leeway and eventually won 25-16.

Hill-Murray rallies in game five

With each team owning two games, the match headed for a 15-point game five to settle their differences.

The Polars began on a roll. No one expected them to come out of the blocks and move so quickly to a 9-2 margin.

It appeared to be over and that North would own a share of the CSC title. But no one thought to inform Hill-Murray of that fact.

The Pioneers suddenly went on a 6-3 run, but were still behind by 8-12.

North picked up another point and was just two points from closing the door on Hill-Murray when Hannah Angeli went to the service line with the score at 9-13.

Hill-Murray gained three points, one a huge block by Ousley-Brown.

But a super set by Ellie Prax was followed by an equal blast to the Hill-Murray side by Nevena Vukomanovich, and the Polars moved to a 14-11 advantage.

Hill-Murray came back with three points to knot the count at 14-14. At that point, one could feel the possibility that Hill-Murray might actually pull the game from desperation to triumph.

But North gained a point and once more sat the edge of victory at 15-14. Hill-Murray again tied the score at 15-15.

With both teams now locked in survival mode, a block by the Pioneers’ Fabian gave them their first lead of the game at 16-15.

Then a slam by the Polars was parried by Pioneers Franco and Lauren Simonson that bounded to the North floor and Hill-Murray had succeed in its nearly miraculous comeback, 17-15. The win gave the Pioneers sole possession of the conference title.

In the game for North, Ellwanger had 45 set assists. In the digs department, Krenz was credited with 31, while Vukomanovich had 23 and Jaskulske was credited with 20.

Owning kills for the Polars were Gabby Cave 20, Jaskulske 20 and Vukomanovich 16.

For Hill-Murray owning kills were Franco 20, Simonson 11, Fabian 10 and Kueppers 8. Set assists were earned by Angeli 31 and Fabian 24, while blocks for points were credited to Ousley-Brown 6, Simonson 5 and Kueppers 4.

Digs were given to Kueppers 22, Angeli 22, Franco 17, Fabian 13 and Natalie Cole 11.

Teams now prepare for sectional play. Hill-Murray will open Section 4AA beginning at home Oct. 22.

North will open Section 4AAA at Hal Norgard Gymnasium Oct. 22.

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