BLUE EARTH - When Blue Earth Area hitter Krista Hassing's line-drive spike caromed off a Fairmont defender's hands and hit the hardwood floor in Blue Earth on Tuesday night, Buc head volleyball coach Donna Nawrocki breathed a sigh of relief.
"We knew this would be a tough match coming into it," Nawrocki said in reference to the Bucs' 24-26, 25-13, 23-25, 25-16, 15-10 South Central Conference comeback victory over the visiting Cardinals.
Blue Earth Area secured a share of the conference championship by improving to 8-1 against league rivals, with only Waseca remaining on its SCC schedule next Tuesday night in Blue Earth.
GETTING VERTICAL — Blue Earth Area middle hitter Janessa Jahnke (12) elevates over the double-block set by Fairmont’s Tori Edgington (17) and Kristen Campe during South Central Conference volleyball action Tuesday night in Blue Earth. Blue Earth Area’s Whitney Pirsig (front right) and Fairmont libero Brooke Wubbena (white jersey) look on. Photo by Leanna Becker
The Bucs' five-game triumph also knocked Fairmont out of contention for a piece of the team trophy by lowering the Cardinals' conference mark to 6-3.
Only St. Peter (6-2) has a chance to share the seasonal title with Blue Earth Area, with a home match against New Ulm on Thursday night and a road match with Fairmont next Tuesday night left on its league schedule.
"I thought we really came together as a team during the fifth game. Everything just seemed to click," said Nawrocki.
After Nawrocki's inspirational talk to her players between Games 4 and 5, senior setter Monica Krieger and the hard-cranking Hassing jumpstarted the Bucs' quick lead during the decisive final game.
Hassing caught the Cardinals' backrow straying too far from the baseline on a two-handed push off of an overpass before the 5-foot-11 jumping jack recorded one of her echoing seven ace blocks.
Outside spiker Paige Bearson, who topped Fairmont's offensive attack with 19 kills, however, refused to yield by countering with a blistering down-the-line kill off one of Emily Kim's 23 set assists for a needed sideout at 2-1 in the first-to-15 showdown.
"After playing back-to-back five-setters in consecutive nights, we may have run out of steam tonight, but we didn't run out of heart," Cardinal head coach Brad Haugen, who upended St. James in a five-game marathon match on Monday night in St. James.
Trailing 8-5 following Buc middle hitter Janessa Jahnke's ace tip off one of Krieger's match-best 50 set assists, Cardinals' setter/spiker Emily Kim and Bearson displayed their mettle by answering with clutch kills. Emily Kim's second kill of Game 5 off a set assist from sibling Elizabeth Kim knotted the game at 8-all before the Bucs' Audrey McDonald countered with a cross-court kill from the left outside spot for a critical sideout
Bearson smacked another down-the-line winner for the equalizer at 9-all before Hassing utilized every inch of her long frame to generate a sideout block.
Hassing then jackhammered one of her match-leading 33 kills off another Krieger assist before a Buc player in the net reduced the Cardinals' deficit to 11-10.
An untimely service effort proved costly for Fairmont as McDonald rotated to the backline, holding a 12-10 advantage.
Krieger went to the power game, setting Hassing for a sliding kill to the right outside hitting spot to collect Point 13. With 6-1 Kayla Lardy setting a solid block to hit around, Blue Earth Area opted to set Ashton Hendricksen on the ensuing play and the 5-6 senior spiker delivered a clutch kill. Hendricksen timed Krieger's left-side set, putting just enough arch to clear potential blockers before the spike found the back right corner of the court for Point 14.
Krieger then lofted a set to the vertical-gifted Hassing in the middle hitting spot and the senior smacked a winner off the defense to cap the five-game comeback victory.
Hendricksen contributed nine kills to the Bucs' performance, while Jahnke delivered 14 spike-winners.
Lardy and Kristen Campe each drilled 10 kills for the Cardinals, while Elizabeth Kim distributed 16 set assists.
Fairmont (8-8, 6-3 SCC) travels to Worthington on Thursday night, while Blue Earth Area (17-5, 8-1) hosts Waseca next Tuesday night.
Blue Earth Area downed the Fairmont, 25-17, 26-24, during junior varsity action on Tuesday night in Blue Earth.
Mikayla Krzywicki distributed four kills and made four ace serves to pace the Cardinals. Taylor Schultze, Sam Hendricksen, Nicole Fedder and Alison Subbert each recorded one kill in the match.
Fedder and Subbert each served up four aces, while Subbert also distributed three set assists.
Hendricksen and Schultze each doled out one set assist for the Cardinals.
Fairmont B-squad volleyball team reversed its fortunes with a 25-19, 25-17 victory over the Bucs on Tuesday in Blue Earth.
Tieryn Arens scored four kills and went 4-for-5 serving with two aces for Fairmont. Morgan Seifried went 8 of 9 from the service line in the match.
Sydney Glienke went a perfect 14-for-14 serving with four aces in the win.
The Fairmont C-squad volleyball team defeated Blue Earth Area, 25-14, 25-14, on Tuesday in Blue Earth.
Brice Bonin went 9-for-9 serving and doled out nine set assists in the match. Alyssa Westcott recorded seven kills and five set assists, while Payton Walser had seven kills and went 21 of 23 serving.
The St. James B-squad volleyball team shut out Fairmont, 25-20, 25-18, on Monday in St. James.
Brianna Olson and Michaela Twitchell each tallied two kills, while Twitchell added three digs in the match.
Morgan Seifried went 9-for-9 serving with two ace serves and also distributed five set assists. Aly Eversman went 6-for-7 serving with one ace and four digs for Fairmont.
Martin County West 3, Mankato Loyola 0 - The Mavericks swept the Crusaders, 25-19, 25-16, 25-13, in a Valley Conference volleyball match in Trimont on Tuesday night.
Taryn Tumbleson recorded a team-best 14 kills, along with two ace serves and three blocks for MCW.
Jordan Gregory added nine kills for the Mavericks' offense, while Kate Thiesse fired five kills and made nine blocks.
Libbie Lange contributed six kills and five blocks, while Hailey Leiding had three kills and three blocks in the match.
Molly Klima led the Maverick defense with 12 digs, Jackie Schliesmann added seven digs, while Autumn Smith made five digs.
Morgan Williamson distributed 22 set assists, while Kennedy Janssen doled out 15 set assists for MCW.
Martin County West (17-9-1) travels to St. Clair for a Valley Conferernce match at 7:30 p.m. Thursday night.
Nicollet 3, Truman 0 - The Raiders shut out the Bluejays, 25-22, 25-21, 25-22, in a Valley Conference volleyball match on Tuesday night in Truman.
Emily Zaharia pounded 12 kills, made 26 digs, six blocks and served two aces for the Bluejays. Savannah Stevens and Hanna Hartman each recorded seven kills, while Emma Wiederhoeft tallied six kills. Stevens also served two aces and made 21 digs, while Hartman made eight digs.
Elizabeth Kotewa cranked five kills and served up three aces, while Alexis Jahnz doled out 18 set assists and made 15 digs for Truman.
Truman (2-18) hosts Madelia in a nonconference match at 7 p.m. on Thursday in Truman.
Madelia 3, Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain 0 - The Blackhawks shut out the Knights 25-21, 25-19, 25-19 in a Valley Conference volleyball match on Tuesday in Madelia.
No individual statistics were reported.
Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain (6-15) travels to Marshall on Saturday to play in the Southwest Minnesota State University Invite.