In battle of conference unbeatens, Hill-Murray triumphs over North

What was predictably expected to be a tight volleyball match between North and Hill-Murray Thursday, Sept. 29, turned into a three-game rout by the Pioneers

Heading into the match at North High, the rivals were undefeated in the Metro East Conference.

With an overall mark of 11-7 and a MEC record of 3-0, the Pioneers were looking for a repeat of their 2014 conference championship.  Meanwhile, the Polars were 10-3 overall and 5-0 in the MEC.

A solid defense was the primary reason for the Pioneers' 3-0 victory as they outpaced the Polars on almost every point in the first two games.

Game three was a bit of a rebound for the Polars as they got on track and matched the Pioneers in vying for nearly every point before dropping the highly contested game by 23-25.

When reminded that the Hill-Murray defense stepped up and made the difference in the match, North coach Steve Anderson agreed. "Yeah they do that every year. It seems as though that's the high standard Hill-Murray plays to.

"Even though we know that's going to happen and we know we have to match it, when we don't, something like tonight happens."

Hill-Murray head coach Tim Walen said, "We were relieved that it came out this way. We were really disciplined tonight. Part of it was that we came out and did what we knew we could for the most part. Our defense was really great for us."

Game one was nip-and-tuck until Hill-Murray pulled away from a 16-16 tie - the score had been knotted on six occasions - to outscore the Polars 9-3, before finally gaining a 25-20 triumph.

That seemed to give the Pioneers a feeling of confidence that carried over into the second game. It was tied on just four occasions - the last at 9-9 - before the Pioneers pulled away and posted a 25-16 win.

Walen explained, "I really didn't expect this match to go just three games. We felt confident coming in, but after the second set I told the kids 'You know good teams are scrappy teams, and they don't go away and they didn't. We have to continue to play at the same high level.'

"Our kids came to play hard and they did. I'm grateful we got out of that third game. It's been awhile that we've come to North and got this kind of a win. We'll take it when we can get it."

In the third game, North jumped out to a 4-0 lead. Hill-Murray came back and pushed to a 10-5 margin.

But the Polars kept pace with the solid defense and mounted some pressure of their own.

One team would score in bunches of three or four points and the other would respond.

The Polars pulled themselves up by their laces and fought back to knot the score at 21-21 and once more at 22, before the Pioneers would shut them out with a third game, 25-23 victory.

Reflecting on the loss, Anderson said, "I felt pretty confident going in that we would play with them. This was unfortunate ... we have played a lot better [this season] than we did tonight. But good teams can do that to you.

"Now we have to go back to work and right the ship. We have Hill-Murray in our last conference game of this year. A lot of things can happen [in coming matches], so we'll see then where we stand."

When Walen was asked about his thoughts on the win, he replied, "Obviously, you know this rivalry goes back a long ways and anytime we can get a piece of them, it feels good."

Hill-Murray's final statistics show: Kills — Ellie Schwartz 17; Hannah Schwartz 7; Claire Westby 5 and Sami Schneider 3. Assists — Hannah Angeli 18 and Alina Gartner 11. Blocks — Brooke Zander 4; Abby Peterson 3; Schneider 3 and Ellie Schwartz 2. Digs — Haley LaValle 11; Claire Westby 11 and Ellie Schwartz 7. And ace serves Westby 3 and Schneider 2.

The Polars stats showed Sophie Cave with 10 kills and Rachel Tschida with 7. In set assists North spread out the assists to several players who each had 3 — Charisma Herr, Tschida, Katelyn Krenz, Megan Rubbelke, Ryan Crotty, Cave and Sarah Mullen.

Wally Wakefield can be reached at or at 651-748-7826.


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