TRIMONT - At the start of Tuesday, there were three teams that remained undefeated in the Valley Conference volleyball standings.
After the Martin County West Mavericks (13-4, 5-0 Valley) outlasted the Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial Knights (15-3, 4-1 Valley), 25-10, 22-25, 25-12, 16-25, 15-13, there are just two teams left to battle for the top of the conference.
"Tonight was a great match with two evenly-matched teams," said Martin County West head coach Mary Sussenguth. "We played a tough match yesterday (Class A, No. 9 ranked Windom) and today was another close one and then there is Thursday against Cleveland. These matches are perfect to get us ready for the playoffs."
DIGGIN’ IT UP — Martin County West’s Reilly Geistfeld digs up a hard spike from Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial as Maverick libero Autumn Smith awaits the pass during Valley Conference volleyball action Tuesday night in Trimont. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Martin County West senior Kate Thiesse swung hard and often at the net for 22 kills in the match, before delivering a critical swing off a Kennedy Janssen set assist at the 4-3 juncture of the final game.
Hailey Leiding, who recorded 12 kills for the Mavericks, smacked a Janssen assist down the left side and just caught the end line to even the game at 3-3, rotating stellar server Haley Jensen to the service line.
Jensen, who helped MCW to score at least five points in four of her serving rotations, then smoked a serve to the Knights that led to Thiesse's blast through Elyse Lubbers' block attempt.
Lubbers sent a Samantha Sorenson set assist long to put the Mavericks up 5-3, before Leiding scored on three straight attacks across court from the left side.
"I thought that our whole team play tonight was great. Offensively, we were balanced and the girls took their turns at really helping each other," said Sussenguth. "When one player was down, another picked up the team. And I thought it was great the way Hailey (Leiding) came back in the last game, after struggling in Game 4. It was great to see."
Leiding capped her scoring run, blasting a swing on a Janssen assist through the double-block attempt by Sorenson and McKenzie Schaffer.
Schaffer then tried to return the favor on the ensuing play by pushing a set over, but Thiesse and Leiding were there to score the block and make it 9-3 for Martin County West.
A Thiesse-Janssen connection that sank into the net gave the Knights the ball back, where Chloe Lantz powered a set from Sorenson past the end line to make it 10-4.
Sorenson then used her defensive skills to block a Jordan Gregory attack to keep the Knights within striking distance at 10-5.
After the Knights strung a couple of points together, it was up to junior McKenna Taylor to get the momentum back in the Mavericks' favor.
Taylor hit a Janssen set down the middle to make it 13-9, before Leiding pounded a kill through a double block and down the line to make it 14-9.
Abby Freidrichs helped the Knights stay in the match, blasting her own kill off a Sorenson assist through a double block by Taylor, who had two blocks in the match, and Gregory to make it 14-10.
A trio of Maverick hits missed their marks with Sorenson at the service line, giving the Knights a chance to win, trailing 13-14.
Taylor, however, was able to put the win in the books for Martin County West with one of her seven kills to win 15-13.
"It was a total team effort tonight. I thought that we played great defense and didn't let any balls hit the floor, and we had a balanced offensive attack, which makes me really happy as a coach," said Sussenguth. "We had a tough match and these girls never gave up. That is just great."
In addition to her offensive efforts, Thiesse also made three blocks and 14 digs in the match.
Gregory scattered 10 kills and made 10 digs, and Leiding made four blocks and five digs for the Mavericks.
Reilly Geistfeld added six kills for Martin County West in the match, while Jensen recorded 12 digs.
Janssen doled out 49 set assists and made seven digs for the Mavericks in the match, while Molly Klima made 21 digs and served up three aces.
Autumn Smith served two aces in addition to her 15 digs for Martin County West.
Martin County West (13-4, 5-0 Valley) travels to Cleveland for a conference game on Thursday.
Lake Crystal-Wellcome Memorial (15-3, 4-1 Valley) hosts Madelia in a conference match on Thursday. Fairmont 3, St. James 2 - Outside hitter Kayla Lardy delivered match-leading numbers of 19 kills and eight blocks to help the visiting Cardinals squeeze by the Saints in a five-game South Central Conference slugfest on Tuesday night in St. James.
Fairmont captured the 3-2 decision by respective game scores of 25-19, 24-26, 25-23, 15-25, 15-13.
Middle hitter Courtney Mosloski and outside spiker Kersten Shantz each produced 10 kills for the Cardinals' offensive performance, while setter Emily Kim distributed 35 assists.
Kim also proved perfect from the service line by connecting on 20 of 20 en route to three aces.
Sydney Glienke and Kristen Campe topped Fairmont's defensive effort by making 28 and 23 digs, respectively.
Fairmont (4-9, 3-3 SCC) plays host to New Ulm on Thursday night.
St. Peter 3, Blue Earth Area 0 - Paige Lubiani delivered a match-best 13 kills to power the Saints to a 25-14, 25-20, 25-5 South Central Conference victory over the Bucs on Tuesday night in St. Peter.
Kirsten Makela doled out 28 set assists for St. Peter; Mikayla Ogren served up 17 points, including five aces; while Brooklyn Braun made 22 digs.
Elizabeth Ellis generated five kills and two ace blocks to pace the Bucs, while Haley Resutek supplied a 7-for-7 service performance and four points.
Nicole Krinke doled out six set assists and made 11 digs for Blue Earth Area, while teammate Audrey McDonald chipped in 11 digs.
Blue Earth Area (2-10, 0-6 SCC) plays host to St. James on Thursday night.
St. Peter (8-4, 5-1) competes in the Cretin-Derham Hall Tournament at 9 a.m. Saturday.
Madelia 3, Truman 1 - The rival Blackhawks outlasted the Bluejays in a closely-contested four-game Valley Conference clash on Tuesday night in Truman.
Madelia exited the hardwood court with respective game scores of 23-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-17 in hand.
Emily Zaharia delivered 12 kills and 36 digs to top Truman, while Courtney Zaharia tallied six kills and four digs.
Hanna Hartman contributed five kills and two ace blocks to the Bluejays' effort, setter Christine Hansen distributed 29 assists, while Alexis Jahnz collected 14 digs and three kills.
Truman (3-10-1, 1-5 Valley) travels to Mankato Loyola on Thursday night.
Mankato Loyola 3, Martin Luther/GHEC 0 - The Crusaders remained undefeated in Valley Conference action by sweeping the Knights, 25-4, 25-14, 25-22, Tuesday night in Mankato.
Amber Schulz produced six kills to top the Knights' effort.
Martin Luther/Granada-Huntley-East Chain (2-11, 1-2 Valley) plays host to Maple River on Thursday night in Northrop.