High school volleyball: Big night at the Big Red Gym for Willmar Cardinals

Read how Willmar improved to 10-0 this season with a 3-0 win over Rocori

111120.S.WCT.Willmar VB Sydney Schnichels
Willmar sophomore Sydney Schnichels hammers an attack during Tuesday's Central Lakes Conference match against Rocori from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Facing a squad with just two wins this season, the Willmar volleyball team outclassed its opponent to remain undefeated.

Using spurts to exert their dominance while mixing in their reserve players, the Cardinals improved their record to 10-0 with a 3-0 victory over Rocori on Tuesday.

The set scores were 25-10, 25-12 and 25-11 during the Central Lakes Conference match from the Big Red Gym at Willmar High School..

“We did get a lot of the girls and all the seniors in for some playing time, which was great,” Cardinals head coach Traci Grussing said. “I thought we were a little bit slow to start in the second and third sets. That was an issue, but other than that, when we got the ball to our setter, our offense was fairly unstoppable.”

Photo Gallery: Rocori Spartans at Willmar Cardinals


The home team went on three separate six-point runs in the opening set; the last featuring a pair of kills from senior hitter Bailey Olson and two ace serves from junior setter Lydia Larson to extend Willmar’s lead to 24-8.

With the second set tied at 8-8, senior right-side hitter Sophie Kobienia helped the Cardinals pull away. She collected a kill and an ace block before capping a 5-0 run with a powerful attack to make it 13-8.

Throughout the night, the force behind Kobienia’s left-handed attacks gave the Spartans fits. As an example, one of the senior’s attacks bounced off the head of an opponent and the ball floated into the stands. Kobienia finished with eight kills.

“It’s really difficult for a team to defend a left-handed hitter on the right side of the court,” Grussing said. “Lydia is pretty good at getting her the ball and Sophie was unstoppable tonight. She’s had some games where she’s made some errors. Tonight, she put everything in play, she attacked everything and hit hard.”

Junior outside hitter Marissa Rosen smashed a free ball at the end of a 7-0 run to close out the second set.

In the third set, Rocori trailed 13-10 before Willmar created a cushion with a 4-0 spurt. After the visitors put a point on the board, the Cardinals finished the match with a 8-0 surge. At 22-10, junior middle hitter Madelyn Knofczynski delivered a kill before senior defensive specialist Ashley Guse put up an ace serve and senior libero Abby Stark produced a dump-off.

111120.S.WCT.Willmar VB Lydia Larson
Willmar junior setter Lydia Larson serves during the second set of Tuesday's Central Lakes Conference match against Rocori from Willmar High School. Patrick Bernadeau / West Central Tribune

Larson led the hosts with 36 assists, nine digs and two ace serves. Stark added a team-high 18 digs. Schnichels put up a Cards-best 12 kills, four ace blocks and six digs. Olson added 10 digs, seven kills and two ace blocks.


Willmar’s next scheduled match is 7 p.m. Thursday at Sauk Rapids.

Willmar 3,
Rocori 0

Rocori (2-6) 10 12 11
Willmar (10-0) 25 25 25
Stats not available
Serving (aces): Abby Stark 1, Sydney Schnichels 1, Lydia Larson 2, Bailey Olson 2, Ashley Guse 1, Emily Staska 1 … Set assists: Larson 36, Stark 3, Olson 1 … Hitting (kills): Stark 1, Schnichels 12, Larson 1, Madelyn Gregory 2, Marissa Rosen 7, Olson 7, Mackenzie Knofczynski 6, Sophie Kobienia 8 … Blocking (aces): Schnichels 4, Gregory 3, Knofczynski 2, Olson 1, Kobienia 1 … Digs (5 or more): Stark 18, Schnichels 6, Larson 9, Olson 10, Callie Slagter 6
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