Volleyball: Hill-Murray headed to state after downing St. Croix Lutheran

Linda Baumeister/Review Hill-Murray senior captain Lauren Simonson (25) sends the ball over the net during Section 4AA semifinal action at home. The Pioneers defeated Concordia Academy 25-15, 25-19, and 25-22 Oct. 29. They went on to win the championship and are headed to the state tournament.

Polars corral Ponies, then surrender to Raiders

Wally Wakefield
Review staff

Hill-Murray is headed to the Class 2A state tournament after a convincing volleyball win over St. Croix Lutheran in the Section 4AA playoffs Oct. 31.

Meanwhile, the Stillwater Ponies came to North High School for a Section 4AAA semifinal volleyball match against the Polars Oct. 29.

Prior to the North and Stillwater match, the Roseville Raiders stymied the Cretin-Derham Hall team in four games. The win advanced the Raiders to championship play for the second consecutive year.

Hill-Murray 3 - St. Croix Lutheran 0

In Section 4AA play, the Hill-Murray Pioneers gained entry into the state tournament play after a convincing win against St. Croix Lutheran.

The Pioneers and the Crusaders squared off Oct. 31 in the section finals at Bloomington Kennedy High School. The Crusaders proved to be worthy opponents for the Classic Suburban Conference champion Hill-Murray.

The first two games were won by Hill-Murray by a score of 25-22. The second game broke the spirit of St. Croix Lutheran, and Hill-Murray got a lead and closed out the Crusaders in game three 25-16.

The triumph caused Hill-Murray head coach Tim Walen to say, “It seems like a long time in the making. The girls are all out of the minds with excitement. “It should be a great week ahead that we have to look forward to.”

In the match, leading the way with kills for the Pioneers was Rachel Kueppers with 13. She was followed in that department by Lauren Simonson 7 and Marisa Franco 6.

Sharing the lead in set assists were Kennedy Fabian 17 and Hannah Angeli with 16.

Leading with 18 digs was Franco. Also gaining a notable number of digs were Angeli 13, Kueppers 12 and Natalie Cole 11.

The Pioneers (27-4) are seeded third in the Class 2A Minnesota State Volleyball Tournament Thursday, Nov. 7, at 7 p.m. and will open against Dassel-Cokato (27-3) in the opening round at Xcel Energy Center.

North 3 - Stillwater 0

The match with Stillwater was anything but easy for the talented North High Polars, and that was especially true the second game. It went to a fingernail-biting 30-28 before the Polars prevailed. Game two also proved to be the match-breaker for the Ponies.

When it was mentioned that the North defense played superbly, Stillwater head coach Robert Fisher said, “They (the Polars) were just solid all around. It wasn’t just their defense. They have a team that attacked us from everywhere on the floor. I wish them luck.”

North head coach Steve Anderson agreed. “Yah, our defense was good. We were very reluctant to give up points.

“We served well, and even when we gave up points we stayed aggressive. This was a game that we had to get out of our system. We fought hard all the way through.”

Coach Anderson then cited middle blocker Holley Dacone as having an especially good night. 

The match got underway with both teams aggressive on defense.

One side would gain the lead and the other would fight back to counter any advantage the other might display.

The contest swayed forth and back. It was tied on just three occasions as the advantages swung in spurts. The last time the score was knotted was at 16-16. At that point the Polars went on a 9-3 run to close out the Ponies 25-19.

In game two, however, Stillwater played with more determination and took advantage of every North unforced error they could. North, which was nearly error-free in game one, suddenly became prone to turning the ball back.

In all, the Polars committed 12 unforced errors and repeatedly let the Ponies back into the game.

The score was level on 11 occasions. At 24-24, it would be anyone’s game. A team must win by two points, and each time one team would move to the brink, the other would force a side-out and usually gain another point in an attempt to switch momentum.

Finally, at 28-28, a serve-out gave the Polars the ball and a 29-28 margin. Clara Krenz went to the line and served an ace to break the Ponies with a 30-28 game two triumph.

Game two swung the momentum to the Polars’ side of the net and when game three was tied at 9-9, the Polars sent senior captain Talia Jaskulske to the service line. Before she moved back to position, the count jumped to 16-9.

Now the Polars were able to smell victory, and with Holly Ellwanger setting aggressive kills by Jaskulske and Ellie Prax, they pushed the score to 22-10.

From there it was just a matter of time before the Ponies were subdued. The final North point in the 25-13 third game came on an ace serve, and the Polars advanced to the Section 4AA finals where for the second year running they would go up against the Roseville Raiders.

Roseville 3 - North 0

This writer, along with a large contingent of Polar rooters, arrived late at Washington High School Oct. 31 because of attendance at the North and Eastview state championship boys soccer game. North won the soccer championship in an exciting shootout.

Now however, the cheering Polars fans were unable to pull their volleyball team to a Section 4 Class 2A win.

Roseville utilized excellent defense, sure-handed passing and near-chilling kills to down the Polars in three games.

It was a disheartening loss for the Polars and a jubilant triumph for the Raiders.

North head coach Steve Anderson was as downhearted as his charges. “We got here again but couldn’t get over the hump. We fought hard, but it was just not to be.”

Roseville head coach Greg Ueland was caught up in the celebration by members of his team. When he finally broke free, he said, “It was a dogfight. I think in the end our consistency made the difference. Our blocking was extremely good this evening.

The outside hitting of Alivia Garbe was especially effective.

“Here we are, the same teams in the section finals with the same result. It feels like deja vu. I’m so proud of these young kids and how they handled this match so well.”

The victory earned Roseville its second consecutive trip to the Class 3A state tournament.

The fifth-seed Raiders (20-10) will play fourth-seed Eden Prairie (21-9) at 9 a.m. Nov 7 at the Xcel Energy Center.

Wally Wakefield can be contacted at wwakefield@lillienews.com.

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