An early kill from Morgan Kruger to start Belle Plaine’s run at the AA state volleyball tournament was a sign for things to come for her role as a leader in the team’s first match against Concordia Academy-Roseville.
Things seemed to have been going relatively smoothly for the Tigers early in the first set after a three-point run put them up over CA-R, but long volley after long volley coupled with communication missteps in the middle of the set put them down 12-15 before coach Richard Foust called the first time of the match out after a wild hit from all-stater Mikayla Coops landed well out of bounds.
Coops quickly recuperated with a bombshell of a kill assisted by Paige Narveson. But another CA-R four-point run put the Tigers on their heels for the second time of the opening set.
Sporadic points led on by handling errors on the part of CA-R and Kruger-Coops kills were the only thing preventing the opposing team’s encroachment. A stiff kill from Kira Fallert down the pipe of Narveson ended the set 25-16 for the team which bested them at the Class AA showcase tournament earlier in the season. Facing the team for the second time, Kruger said, showed highs and lows for the Tigers.
“I think there were some negative thoughts coming into this match because we did have a loss,” Kruger said. “, but we also knew that our team is like 180, completely flipped, and we’re a totally different team now, and all the mistakes we made the last time we played them are mistakes that we’ve completely fixed. There was a lot of positive overpowering the negative.”
The second set saw a spark ignite in the eyes of the Tigers. But the overpowering front line of CA-R led by Kira Fallert again backed the Tigers up, not before a six-point run to put the Tigers up 8-4.
Concordia Academy-Roseville ran up the score 25-20 ultimately, but the Tigers began to look alive and well do in large part to Kruger’s constant communication on the floor.
For Coach Richard Foust, the third set went exactly how he thought it could.
“Volleyball is really a game of momentum, and you could just feel it turn during the match,” Foust said. “For our girls to get some excitement, get our fans involved was great, and we’re a team who can feed off of that.”
And feed off of that they did. Long vollies and consistent defense from Sarah Lenz, who had 20 digs through the third set, led to CA-R errors, that they could not correct in time in order to have a viable answer to the crushing power of Mikayla Coops or the accuracy of Lauren Johnson, who walked away with five kills from the set. This time it was Belle Plaine who put together unanswered scoring runs.
Following a set from Paige Narveson, Morgan Kruger buried a kill in the middle of CA-R turf for the set win with a score of 25-20,putting the match at 1-2.
The fourth set was anyone’s game until a late run put CA-R up 14-20, leading to a Belle Plaine timeout. A minute seemed like an eternity for the gathered fans at the Xcel Energy Center, but a minute was all it took to revitalize the Tigers. Following a Lizzie Hilgers kill up front, the Tigers came back with a six-point run of their own, tying things up at 20-20. Back and forth possessions led to back-to-back ties first at 21, then at 23, then 24. but at the state tournament mistakes don’t go unanswered. A kill from CA-R’s Kira Fallert, followed by an answerable serve that hit the floor in Tiger territory, the match was over 1 set to 3 after a 24-26 victory for CA-R.
“I think overall that we did play hard. We came back. We fought hard, and I think we should keep our heads up. It’s one game; there’s the rest of the tournament too,” Narveson said in a post-match interview.
The Tigers play Park Rapids for the first match of the consolation finals tonight at 7p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center.