ST. PAUL — One or two points usually don’t decide high school volleyball matches, but Greenway’s Class A state tournament quarterfinal against Minneota on Thursday really came down to a crucial moment with both sides tied at 22 in the opening set.
The unseeded Raiders could have established much-needed momentum by capturing the first set but instead dropped the ensuing three points and fell 25-22, 25-15, 25-19 at Xcel Energy Center.
Greenway (26-5) heads to the consolation bracket to face Mounds Park Academy at 1 p.m. Friday. The winner moves on to Saturday’s fifth-place game.
Top-seeded Minneota (31-3), last season’s Class A champs, meets Fosston, a 3-2 winner in its match, in a semifinal.
“The first set in every match is super important because if you win the first set you’re up 1-0 and have all the momentum going into the second set,” said Vikings junior outside hitter Abby Hennen, who led her team with 18 kills.
Hennen was key to the Vikings frustrating Greenway’s blocking attempts as she mixed up her attacks between going down the line or, even more effectively, hitting cross-court shots.
“They would down the line and then go cross court, so it was hard to cover and our block wasn’t there at all,” said Greenway junior Claire Vekich, who had a match-high 26 kills. “We don’t see teams that can hit around the block. We had holes everywhere and our block wasn’t even up half the time. It was hard for our defense to read.”
Hennen and Natalee Solbiecki, who had 17 kills, kept the Raiders’ defense off-balance.
“The big thing to read when you are an outside hitter is to see where the block is,” Hennen said. “If they are going to block you all the way out to the pin, then you have to try to go cross or hit (blockers) high in the hands. I thought our setters did a good job of pushing us to the pin so we could either go line or cross.”
Greenway jumped to an early three-point lead in the second set, but it didn’t take the Vikings long to establish control as they won 14 of the final 18 points.
Greenway contributed to the setback by struggling in serve receive and making too many setting errors.
“Our serve receive never did get better and we had a lot of blocking errors,” Raiders coach Rhaya Tomberlin-Anderson said. “They run such a fast offense, and we don’t see that very often.”
Getting Vekich involved was Greenway’s primary strategy, however with the serve receive off and freshman setter Lexi Hammer struggling to adapt to the stricter setting rules at state tournaments, she didn’t end up seeing the ball enough.
“We didn’t pass the ball and didn’t use our offense (effectively),” Vekich said. “As the game went on, it got worse, not better.”
Tomberlin-Anderson, who guided the Raiders to three state tournaments as a setter in the mid-1980s and one in her first season as coach in 2001, knew double sets would be called more often.
“That’s frustrating,” she said. “I knew that coming in and Lexi and I talked about getting set, getting your hands high before the ball gets there. With the high ceiling, it’s tough to get used to. I think she’ll be fine, we just have to calm her down and get her ready for tomorrow.”
Class A Quarterfinal
Minneota def. Greenway 25-22, 25-15, 25-19 — M: Abby Hennen 18K, 14D; Natalee Rolbiecki 17K, 9D; McKenna Yost 32SA, 7D; Ireland Stassen 18SA; Morgan Hennen 9K, 6D; Abby Frie 5K; Ellie Pesch 5D; Abby Rost 5D. G: Claire Vekich 26K, 5D; Mikhara Anderson 5K, 13D; Lexi Hammer 33SA, 7D; Kaisa Reed 9D.