IN THE STATE FINALS
The Minneota Viking Volleyball team is headed to the State Class A Championship!
On Friday afternoon, defeated Bethlehem Academy of Fairbault 3-0 winning 25-19; 27-25 and 25-11.
The Vikings will take on #1 seeded Mayer Lutheran at 1 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in the state finals.
Mayer Lutheran defeated Wadena-Deer Creek 3-0 on Friday.
Lydia Sussner led the way for the Vikings with 18 kills.
By Byron Higgin
Mascot Sports Editor
Up to Friday, Bethlehem Academy had a 1-7 record against Minneota in state tournaments.
“One and seven,” smiled Coach Hayley Fruin.
That one time, of-course, was 2006 when Fruin and the Minneota Vikings beat Bethlehem Academy for the state title.
That is, until Friday. “It doesn’t get much better than this,” said Fruin after her Vikings had defeated the Class A power, 3-0 by scores of 25-19; 27-25 and 25-11.
“They are a powerhouse,” said Fruin.
The victory had double significance because it vaulted Minneota into the state championship on Saturday.
And, as BA Coach Franz Boelter recalled, “Hayley (Fruin) was a college roommate of my daughters.”
It was Boelter who put the game into perspective. “Minneota’s ball control was superior to ours. Give them a lot of credit,” he said.
No better credit to the Vikings ability to keep the ball off the floor than the accolade paid by Coach Fruin to back-court specialist Abby Hennen. “Nobody would know she’s a freshman. She’s been our leader.” Hennen response with 22 digs, many when it seemed there was no way to retrieve the ball.
But the Vikings ability to keep the ball in the air and moving toward the net was shown in no batter statistic than the fact they had 75 digs to just 53 for Bethlehem Academy, and they knocked down 48 kills — spreading it out from 19 by Lydia Sussner to 10 by Natalee Rolbiecki, eight by Jennifer Krog and six more by Lizzy Gillingham.
“Our back row had an amazing presence and we built off that energy. It was a senior’s dream come true,” said Krog, the Vikings only senior.
This was perhaps Jennifer Krog’s finest hour. She was there when her team needed it and her eight kills and timely blocking, plus some nice digging at times, helped her cash in on her best game of the year.
“I was so excited. I just want to win state,” the bubbly Krog said.
“Jennifer played with a lot of heart,” said Coach Fruin.
For Sussner, it was a matter of, “Not making errors and cleaning up our side of the net.” Her two blocks for points — but blocks on five other Cardinal hits was a valuable resource at the net.
But the fact Minneota’s serving was flawless, with Abby Hennen, Morgan Hennen and Morgan Kockelman leading the way, included six ace serves, two each by Ellie Pesch and Emily Pohlen.
When asked if she was nervous coming into the game, freshman Abby Hennen said, “No, I’ve been here so many times with my sisters,” indicating previous Vikings in State, Samantha, Kelsey and Molly.
“We calmed down,” Hennen added. When asked about playing with senior Krog, Hennen said, “She’s like another big sister. I love playing with her.”
Minneota coasted through the first game with no player getting more than three kills and that was Gillingham. They had 12 total, and while the Cardinals had more kill attempts, 39-32, the Vikings were three times as efficient with their hitting.
In the second game Sussner picked up her kills with 10 but it was eighth grader Natalee Rolbiecki who kept the Viking machine rolling.
Her eight kills came mostly in the middle of the match when Sussner was on the bench. Then, when Sussner returned, she and Gillingham delivered the Vikings from a 17-17 tied to a 21-19 lead. In fact, when Sussner put down a kill for a 23-19 lead, Minneota appeared to be in control..
But BA got inspired hitting from Laney Donahue to get back in the game, tying Minneota at 24.
The Cardinals took a 25-24 lead, but theVikings tied it at 25 — then got a mammoth hit from Sussner, then a second one take the narrow, 27-26 win.
That seemed to destroy the Cardinals as the Vikings rolled to a 7-0 lead behind the serving of Abby Hennen in the third game.
Cardinal hitter Mary Campbell said her team didn’t give up, but, “They (Vikings) were getting us out of our zone. They were good blockers and they were pretty intimidating.
“Our passing was great in the middle of the floor and all our hitters stepped up,” said Coach Fruin.
Minneota built their lead to 20-9, then with some great diving saves by Krog and Kockelman, pushed the Cardinals over the edge for a 25-11 win.
“When the passers do their job, it opens the net up for everyone,” said Sussner.
In a moment of joy, Coach Fruin smiled and said, “this is my favorite group of girls. I suppose I shouldn’t say that.” She laughed.
Then said added, “They didn’t played scared,” and that about said it all.
NOTE: Bethlehem Academy has been in the finals 11 of the last 13 years and has won the state championship seven times.
•Mayer Lutheran defeated Wadena-Deer Creek, 3-0 to gain the finals as defending champions and will play Minneota for the state crown.
•Bethlehem Academy was 17-15 after the game and Minneota continued with a 2-5 record.
BA 19 25 11
Minneota 25 25 25
KILLS: Minneota-Lydia Sussner 18; Natalee Rolbiecki 10; Lizzy Gillingham 6; Jennifer Krog 8; Sydney larson and Morgan Kockelman 2 each. BA-Mary Campbell 11; Laney Donahue 9; Meagan Donahue 6.
DIGS: Minneota-Abby Hennen 22; Morgan Kockelman 6; Morgan Hennen 12; Lizzy Gillingham 8; Jennifer Krog 6; Ellie Pesch 4; Sydney Larson 3; Natali Rolbiecki 2; Sussner, Emily Pohlen 1 each. BA-Olivia Nass 17; Campbell 9; Laney Donahue 13.
SERVING ACES: Minneota: Pesch, Pohlen 2 each; Gillingham, Abby Hennen 1 each. BA-Laney Donahue, Abby Jandro 2 each, six total.
SET ASSISTS: Minneota-Abby Kockelman 42. BA-Jandro 27.
BLOCKS: Minneota-Sussner 2; Kockelman, Krog 1 each. BA-Ellie Cohen 1.