Prep Volleyball: Willmar slows down Mankato West
Cardinals beat Scarlets in 4; Marshall next for 2AAA title
WILLMAR — The Willmar volleyball team will compete for the school’s first state berth after beating Mankato West in the Section 2AAA semifinals Friday at the Big Red Gym at Willmar High School.
The second-seeded Cardinals knocked off the third-seeded Scarlets by a score of 25-20, 22-25, 25-23, 25-19.
After a tough opening-round win over No. 7 seed New Ulm on Wednesday, Willmar head coach Leah Ruter saw her squad come onto the court with a chip on its shoulder.
“Without me even saying anything, all the girls knew we didn’t play our best on Wednesday,” Ruter said. “They knew this was go time and we need to turn it around.
“They really wanted it and fought hard. We went for balls that maybe we didn’t get earlier in the year.”
Leading the Cardinals’ attack was junior Sydney Schnichels. The 6-foot-4 junior outside hitter had 19 kills along with a team-best 23 digs. Marissa Rosen followed with 14 kills while Mackenzie Knofczynski tallied 11.
In the back row, Hannah Stark (15), Lydia Larson (14), Gretchen Volk (12) and Allie Rosendahl (11) each had double-digit digs. Larson distributed the ball effectively with 49 set assists.
At the net, the Cardinals’ block slowed down Mankato West’s hitters. Bella Mulder led the way with four blocks. Schnichels had 1-1/2 blocks, and Dena Mathison had one.
“I had a little scouting report and talked before warmups,” Ruter said about her team’s block. “Number 11 (Grace Banse) is a great player and they’ll go to her a lot. We were a little off on our blocking on Wednesday; They knew we had to shut them down.”
Awaiting Willmar in the section championship is top-seeded and top-ranked Marshall. The Tigers advanced with a three-set win over four seed Hutchinson, 25-14, 25-22, 25-23.
The two teams met on Aug. 26 in the opening match of the regular season, with Marshall getting the sweep.
While Willmar will try to go to state for the first time, Marshall will try to go to state for a state record 30th time. It will be the Cardinals’ first section title match since going for three straight years from 2016-18.
The section championship takes place at 7 p.m. Thursday at Marshall High School.
“We just got to play hard and let everything happen,” Ruter said about the championship matchup. “We need to do what we do best and control our side of the net. Just go out and leave everything on the floor.”
Mankato West 1
Mankato West (16-10) 20 25 23 19
Willmar (21-7) 25 22 25 25
Stats not available
Serving (aces): Gretchen Volk 3, Sydney Schnichels 1, Mackenzie Knofczynski 1, Allie Rosendahl 1 … Set assists: Lydia Larson 49, Hannah Stark 3, Schnichels 1, Volk 1 … Hitting (kills): Schnichels 19, Marissa Rosen 14, Knofczynski 11, Bella Mulder 8, Dena Mathison 3, Larson 1 … Blocking (aces): Mulder 4, Schnichels 1-1/2, Mathison 1, Knofczynski 1/2 … Digs (5 or more): Schnichels 23, Stark 15, Larson 14, Volk 12, Rosendahl 11, Mulder 5