Volleyball: Hill-Murray advances to state tournament finals


Xcel Energy Center was site of the State Volleyball Tournament as Hill-Murray took on Dassel-Cokato in Class AA Nov. 7. (photos by Linda Baumeister/Review)

Hill-Murray senior Kennedy Fabian (4) goes up to block during Class AA State quarterfinal action at Xcel Nov. 7. The Pioneers defeated Dassel-Cokato 25-23, 26-24, 21-25 and 25-22.

Hill-Murray senior Rachel Kueppers (8) sends the block back as senior Raven Ousley-Brown (13) also goes up to block.

Setting the ball is Hill-Murray sophomore Hannah Angeli (9) at Xcel Energy Center during state tournament play.

Hill-Murray senior Raven Ousley-Brown goes for the kill during Class AA State quarterfinal action against Dassel-Cokato.

Hill-Murray senior Lauren Simonson (25), backed up by teammates, sends a volley over the net.

Pioneers take 2nd after being tamed by Marshall Tigers

Wally Wakefield
Review staff

The Hill-Murray High School Pioneers won the Classic Suburban Conference volleyball title for the fifth year running. They moved through Section 4AA with three wins and advanced to the 2013 Minnesota State Class AA Volleyball Tournament for the first time.

The Pioneers then won their first two matches, defeating Dassel-Cokato and Kasson-Mantorville, before running into the Marshall Tigers in the championship game Saturday, Nov. 9.

The Tigers were the top seed, and this was their 23rd state tournament appearance. In downing the Pioneers, they claimed their third straight title. It was their fourth state championship in five years.

The 2013 title was Marshall’s sixth. Additionally the Tigers have been tournament runners-up on five occasions.

But the third-seeded Pioneers, after winning their first two matches, did not quit just because they were underdogs to the defending champs. In gaining the Class AA second-place trophy, the Pioneers had two players—Kennedy Fabian and Rachel Kueppers—named to the All-Tournament team.

Hill-Murray 3 - Dassel-Cokato 1
Game one - Pioneers 25 - Chargers 23

The entire match between the Pioneers and the Chargers was more like a cat-and-mouse game.

First one team would gain an edge and then the other would pounce and change the momentum.

The score was tied on four occasions and the lead changed on just two occasions. But the game—highlighted by huge kills from both sides of the net—was contested until the very end.

At 15-15, with Marisa Franco at the service line, Hill-Murray got the ball and went on a 9-3 run and moved to the brink at 24-15.

Then the Chargers pounced. A net violation and a pair of balls sent out allowed Dassel-Cokato to bring the score to 23-24. Hill-Murray called a second timeout to stem the momentum.

A set by Kennedy Fabian and a kill by Rachel Kueppers that bounced off the floor on the Chargers’ side, provided the Pioneers with a sigh of relief and a 25-23 win.

Game two: Pioneers 26 - Chargers 24

Both team continued their “cat-and-mouse” play.

In this game the score was tied on five occasions, and the lead changed hands three times.

This time it was the Chargers who moved to the edge of finishing with a win only to have it slip away.

With the score at 19-13 Chargers, the Pioneers went on an 8-2 run and moved to 19-22. The teams exchanged points until the Chargers moved to 24-22 and a point away from winning.

A pair of attack errors by Dassel-Cokato made the count 24-24. A huge block by Fabian and Lauren Simonson gave Hill-Murray a 25-24 leeway. The winning point came on a set by Hannah Angeli and a kill by Kueppers that provided the come-from-behind, 26-24 win.

Game three: Chargers 25 - Pioneers 21

Hill-Murray appeared to be on the verge of putting Dassel-Cokato away.

With the Pioneers up 20-13 after going on an 8-3 run, the Chargers called a timeout to assess their predicament. Suddenly, they came alive.

Their defense stiffened and they went on an 11-0 run against the stunned Hill-Murray squad.

The Pioneers gained a point before the Chargers closed them out at 25-21.

Game four: Pioneers 25 - Chargers 22

The “cat-and-mouse” chase continued with both teams playing with confidence.

First one team and then the other would gain command. There were seven tied scores and five lead changes before Hill-Murray - behind at 18-22 - tripped the trap on Dassel-Cokato.

With Franco at the service line Hill-Murray went on a 7-0 run to gain a 25-22 victory.

After winning the 3-1 match, Hill-Murray head coach Tim Walen was asked about his team’s unforced errors. “I don’t know,” he stated, shaking his head. He then continued, “I’m just proud that we stuck to our guns. It showed that we believed in ourselves, and that we could do it.

Hopefully, we can iron out some of those mistakes before tomorrow. I’m looking forward to our next match. I’m excited about our chances.”

Hill-Murray 3 - Kasson-Mantorville 2

The Section 1AA victors, the Kasson-Mantorville Komets, defeated Maple Lake in their first match.

The Komets, who were seeded second in the tournament, would prove to be worthy opponents as they pushed the match to five games before they succumbed to Hill-Murray’s balanced attack.

Game one: Komets 25 - Pioneers 21

It was a back-and-forth contest with Hill-Murray in the lead until Kasson-Mantorville moved to a 15-15 tie.

At that point the Komets went on a 5-0 spurt and never relinquished their hold of the lead.

Hill-Murray tried, but Kasson-Mantorville fought hard and never gave up the four-point margin and closed out the Pioneers 25-21.

Game two: Pioneers 25 - Komets 22

This game was a nail-biter right to the end. There were eight ties and three lead changes.

The Komets gained the upper hand at 21-18 and seemed to be on their way to claiming a two-game lead in the match. However, the Pioneers scored four points and took a 22-21 lead.

Kasson-Mantorville claimed a point to tie at 22-22.

But a Fabian set and a kill by Raven Ousley-Brown was followed by a kill by Fabian off a set by Angeli to push the score to 24-22. The final point came on a huge—non-returnable—kill by Fabian, and Hill-Murray evened the match at one game apiece with a score of 25-22.

Game three: Pioneers 25 - Komets 19

The game-two win gave the Pioneers the confidence they needed.

With the game knotted at 2-2, Hill-Murray gained the upper hand and never let go. Though the Komets were never far behind, they were unable to gain the lead.

At 14-11, the Pioneers moved the count to 17-12 and kept pushing the score to a five- or six-point lead until the final at 25-19.

Game four: Komets 25 - Pioneers 18

With their backs to the wall, the Komets responded. With the score fluctuating at the beginning of the game, Kasson-Mantorville made a move from 10-10.

The Komets went on a 6-0 splurge and never looked back. At 21-18 they gained a side-out and then closed the door on the Pioneers.

The 25-18 fourth-game win by Kasson-Mantorville pushed the match to a deciding game five.

Game five: Pioneers 15 - Komets 10

The game was played with neither team able to provide a move to give them the momentum.

However, things began to shift toward the Pioneers when they broke from an 8-8 tie.

A net serve provided the Pioneers with momentum. A set by Fabian and kill by Kueppers was followed by a block by Ousley-Brown and Fabian.

The Komets picked up a point, but the Pioneers responded with points on consecutive blocks by Fabian and Ousley-Brown. Then came an ace serve by Kueppers that was followed by an Ousley-Brown block to give Hill-Murray an exciting 15-10 game-five win that propelled the team into the championship game with top-seeded Marshall.  

“Yes, we’re where we want to be,” sighed Coach Walen following the win. “I’m really proud of the way our kids played. We never gave up, and it was a true team win. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we came together to get the win.”

Marshall 3 - Hill-Murray 0
Game one: Tigers 25 - Pioneers 13

Led by All-Tournament outside hitter Kenzie Beekman, the Marshall Tigers scored in bunches in the Class AA title game.

The Tigers broke from a 2-2 tie with a 5-0 burst. Beekman, a senior, had three huge kills that moved Marshall to a 7-2 lead from which they would never look back.

Hill-Murray gained four points to move within three at 7-10, but then the Tigers notched seven straight points and went on to close out Hill-Murray 25-13.

In game one Beekman had seven kills.

Game two: Tigers 25 - Pioneers 19

After the game-one setback, Hill-Murray never gave up and began to figure out a way to block the near savage hits by Beekman and her teammates.

In game two the score was tied on seven occasions, and the lead changed six times.

At 12-12, the Pioneers went on a 5-1 run and moved to a 16-13 leeway.

Four straight kill shots by Beekman changed the Hill-Murray lead for the last time. The Tigers went on a 12-2 run that provided them with a six-point win at 15-19.

Game Three: Marshall 25 - Hill-Murray 16

Game three was put on ice early by the Tigers.

Marshall put Lexi Saugstad on the service line to start the game. The Tigers used kill shots and blocks, and took advantage of Hill-Murray errors. In spite of two timeouts by the Pioneers to try to sway the momentum, Marshall scored 13 straight points and never looked back.

From that point on, the Pioneers played the defending champs tough and actually outscored them 16-13, but with such a huge hole to climb out of, the Tigers won game three by nine points and won the match with a third-game final of 25-16.

“We just couldn’t come back against such a well-balanced team as Marshall,” Coach Walen said after the loss. “They won the match, but I’m extremely proud of our girls. They not only got to the tournament, but made a name for themselves.

“We hope this first trip gives us the momentum to return to the tournament on many more occasions.” 

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

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