PREP VOLLEYBALL: Tigers start with a sweep

MARSHALL – Class 2A No. 1-ranked Marshall used a balanced attack to sweep Luverne 25-11, 25-14, 25-11 in a Section 3 Tournament quarterfinal match Friday.

The Tigers, who improved to 26-3 overall, did what they needed to do to advance in the postseason. Marshall, the top seed in the section, will play host to No. 4-seeded Worthington (12-12-3), which defeated No. 5-seeded New Ulm 25-18, 13-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-9 on Friday in Worthington.

MHS was aggressive at the service line, where its top four servers combined to make 39-of-42 attempts and generate eight aces.

Callie Graff connected on 14 of 16 serves and recorded three aces, while Hannah Bennett made all 11 of her attempts with an ace and Kenzie Beekman hit 10-of-11 serves with a pair of aces.

“We served well and we served tough,” Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. “I think it was difficult for Luverne to pass the ball at times. That can be attributed to the job our players did at the service line.”

One of Graff’s aces handed Marshall a 14-4 lead in Set 1 before the Cardinals asked for a timeout. The Tigers took several double-digit leads throughout the match while keeping Luverne off balance.

Still, Westby showed respect for Marshall’s quarterfinal-round opponent.

“Luverne is not a typical eighth seed because they came into this match only one game below .500 with a senior-heavy team,” Westby said. “The Cardinals competed hard and we knew they were not going to go away lightly. We made too many unforced errors in the first set. Of Luverne’s 11 points in the first set, I think seven of those were scored on errors on our part.”

Cardinals head coach Renee Reuter said she stressed defense to her players in practice this week.

“Our strategy was to work a lot on defense leading up to this match because Marshall is a strong-hitting team,” Reuter said. “We felt like defense was a way that we could score some points and supplement our offense.”

Reuter said the Cardinals were prepared to block and hit around Marshall’s block.

“We did some blocking drills and we hit around blocks because Marshall tips the ball very well,” Reuter said. “We wanted to pick things up defensively. So, we prepared by doing those game-like drills.”

Luverne completed its season at 10-12-2 overall.

Westby said it was important for the Tigers to strengthen their attack heading into the final two sets.

Beekman led the MHS hitters with 12 kills in the match. Marah Mulso supplied seven and Sydney Griffin knocked down five more. Mulso was the Tigers’ block leader with three solos, Graff added a pair of blocks, while Griffin and Emma Doyle chipped in one apiece.

“Unlike a lot of years, this year we have a lot of players who are comfortable with swinging, and a lot of them had quality swings in this match,” Westby said. “With many players who can swing, it keeps our opponents guessing from where the hit is coming. Also, (setter) Sydney Griffin did a nice job of mixing things up and that’s something we’re going to need the deeper that we head into the tournament.”

Griffin finished with 21 set assists, while Bennett and Steph Baker each posted 10 digs.

Luverne11 14 11

Marshall25 25 25

SERVING: Marshall (Callie Graff 14-16-3, Hannah Bennett 11-11-1, Kenzie Beekman 10-11-2, Haley Bennett 4-4-2).

KILLS: Marshall (Kenzie Beekman 12, Marah Mulso 7, Sydney Griffin 5).

DIGS: Marshall (Steph Baker 10, Hannah Bennett 10, Kenzie Beekman 8).

SET ASSISTS: Marshall (Sydney Griffin 21, Hannah Bennett 1, Callie Griffin 1, Emma Doyle 1).

BLOCKS: Marshall (Marah Mulso 3, Callie Graff 2, Emma Doyle 1, Sydney Griffin 1).