Willmar state bid denied by Marshall

MANKATO - Willmar pounded and pounded for nearly two hours on Saturday, but eventually the door leading to the state volleyball tournament was slammed in its face, closing the Cardinals' most successful volleyball season ever.

MANKATO - Willmar pounded and pounded for nearly two hours on Saturday, but eventually the door leading to the state volleyball tournament was slammed in its face, closing the Cardinals' most successful volleyball season ever.

Every time Willmar built a little momentum up in the Section 2AAA championship, Marshall would squash the rally like a bug hitting a windshield.

Eventually, the defending Class AAA state champion Tigers clawed their way to a 25-20, 26-24, 25-17 victory at Minnesota State, Mankato.

Marshall earned a fifth straight trip to state and 17th overall. Willmar, meanwhile, was bidding to make its first appearance.

"We really felt we had a good chance with this team," said Willmar coach Mary Hanson. "But Marshall took us out of our system. It was a tough loss because these kids have worked so hard for so long to get here."


Willmar, which had a school-record 28 wins this season after a 27-win season a year ago, will have to replace seven seniors that saw action in the section final.

Willmar, which also lost to Marshall in three games in last season's section final, had an excellent chance to turn the match in its favor after the first game. The Cardinals held a 24-22 lead in the second game following a Marshall hitting error.

"We saw a few things that we told the girls about," said Marshall coach Dan Westby. "And it worked out for us."

Needing just one point to tie the match and possibly take a little life out of a red-hot Marshall team, Willmar wouldn't manage another tally in the game.

Amanda Beekman, a 6-2 junior outside hitter who had a match-high 15 kills, blasted one down to make it 24-23.

Marshall senior setter Macie Michelson then made two spectacular defensive saves in the same rally that could have given the game away. Katie Hoffman's kill then tied the game at 24.

A kill by Kelsie Kruger gave Marshall a 25-24 lead and the game point came on a Willmar passing error.

"Marshall's defense was the difference," said coach Hanson. "There is nothing frustrating for a hitter than to have everything dug up. We kept going after them and they just kept pickling us up."


Willmar seemed lifeless o start the third game after the letdown in game two, quickly falling behind 5-1. But the Cardinals refused to give in and eventually tied the game 9-9 as senior Nina Emery served three straight points, two coming on Marshall hitting errors and another on a kill by sophomore Jamie Wilson.

Danielle Gimmestad then quelled the Willmar rally with a kill, giving Marshall the lead for good. Dani Bahlman then served four unanswered points for a 14-9 Marshall advantage.

Willmar did close within two points at 17-15 but would get no closer.

"Willmar is an outstanding team," said Westby. "They have almost 60 wins over the last two seasons and only six losses. That's impressive at any level, especially when you consider two of those losses have come in section finals."

Willmar was led by senior setter Kelsey Hanson, who was all over the court in an attempt to keep her team in the match. She had 18 assists and two ace blocks, while playing solid defensively.

Sophomore Greta King had 10 kills. Senior Mary Sussenguth added eight kills, and Wilson and senior Laura Nielsen four each.

Willmar had some defensive lapses, however, and Marshall attackers exploited them. After Beekman's 15 kills, Danielle Gimmestad had 10 and Kruger nine.

Marshall 3, Willmar 0


Willmar (27-3) 20 24 17

Marshall (26-4) 25 26 25

(Key: good-attempts-aces)


Serving: Kelsey Hanson 12-13-1, Chelsea Vreeman 9-9-0, Greta King 8-8-0, Laura Nielsen 8-9-0, Mary Sussenguth 10-11-1, Nina Emery 11-13-1 .... Setting: Hanson 42-42-18, Vreeman 1-1-1, King 9-11-3, Emery 2-2-1 .... Hitting: Hanson 7-8-2, Jenna Olson 1-1-0, King 16-19-10, Nielsen 7-11-4, Sussenguth 21-22-8, Jamie Wilson 11-11-4, Emery 14-16-3 .... Blocking (aces): King 2, Nielsen 2, Sussenguth 2, Hanson 2, Emery 1, Wilson 1 ... Digs: Hanson 6, Megan Brown 6, Olson 1, Vreeman 4, Randiann Sather 1, King 5, Sussenguth 4, Wilson 2


Serving: Ashley Goodmund 11-11-2, Danielle Gimmestad 10-10-1, Alyssa Vandeputte 8-9-2, Macie Michelson 10-10-1, Amanda Beekman 10-12-0, Dani Bahlman 7-7-3 .... Setting: Michelson 77-78-35 .... Hitting: Gimmestad 16-17-10, Beekman 26-27-15, Katie Hoffman 6-11-4, Kelsie Kruger 9-11-9, Anna Full 10-12-4 .... Blocking (aces): Kruger 3, Full 2, Beekman 1 ... Digs: Michelson 14, Goodmund 9, Shay Birath 9, Bahlman 8

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