NEW ULM - It was "Dig Pink" night at Minnesota Valley Lutheran Thursday night, which is one of four nights of volleyball in the Tomahawk Conference that raises money annually for breast cancer research ($54,000 in the past four years) and celebrates cancer survivors in attendance.
But when it came to volleyball, it was the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Thunderbirds who survived a pesky MVL Chargers team, finally winning 25-17, 19-25, 25-20, 25-12.
"The last two weeks, the back row has done a good job of digging," GFW coach Chris Wortz said of her 12-6, 6-1 conference team. "The fourth set was a picture of the way we should play. I told them we needed to start hitting towards the back and when we did, things started to turn our way."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Minnesota Valley Lutheran’s Rylee Weisensel (6) attempts to block a spike from Katelyn Seehafer (5) of Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop Thursday at MVL.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
The 10-14, 3-4 Chargers kept things interesting until midway through the third set, when the Thunderbirds started playing more aggressively.
"After awhile, they just started thinking about it too much," MVL coach Sara Gieseke said. "We've got to get aggressive in hitting and we still have to get it to our front hitters. But I thought Rylee Weisensel had a nice game for us tonight at middle hitter."
There were ties aplenty early in the first set as the two teams tested each other out, with the Thunderbirds taking a 13-8 lead, then watching as the Chargers squeezed it down to 15-14. It wasn't until GFW was up 19-17 that they scored the final six points, the final two coming from Stephanie Palmer kills.
MVL did have a trick up their pink sleeves, throwing two different types of defensive schemes at the Thunderbirds that wasn't realized by GFW until the second set. And, it was the second set where the Chargers played their best volleyball of the night.
Consecutive kills from Bekka Olsen gave MVL a 13-6 lead. The Thunderbirds did get within three points three times, but a tip kill from Laura Schoenherr and a block by Weisensel knotted tha match at 1-1.
The third set started off like the first, with six ties ending at 10-10, While GFW didn't exactly speed to a big lead, consecutive unforced errors by MVL that upped the Thunderbirds margin to 19-13 effectively ended the Chargers chances of an upset. A kill by Morgan Wenninger started what would be a very offensive ending for GFW.
With the Thunderbirds already up 7-5 in the fourth set, GFW hammered seven consecutive kills, three of them from Wenninger, that opened a 12-5 lead. By the time the Chargers committed two out of bounds kills that made it 17-7, it was a tip kill by Korine Schuette.
Wenninger led the Thunderbirds with 14 kills, 20 digs, 20 set assists and three aces. Erin McDurmont had 14 kills, while Halley Busse had 27 digs, Claire Leitheiser had 23 set assists and Janaye Martin contributed 19 digs. For MVL, Schoenherr had 27 set assists and Weisensel had nine kills.
MVL resumes play next Tuesday when they travel to New Ulm Cathedral, while GFW plays next Tuesday in Fairfax against Sleepy Eye.