Rabb plays a big role for Springfield

WINTHROP – On an emotional night for the Gibbon-Fairfax-Winthrop volleyball program, Springfield’s Vishe’ Rabb stole the show.

Rabb had 21 kills in helping lead Springfield past GFW 25-17, 26-28, 25-19, 25-20 in a Tomahawk Conference volleyball match on Thursday in Winthrop.

Before Thursday’s match, GFW was holding a fundraising support event for World Lymphoma Awareness Day to honor Mike Palmer of Fairfax and Tiffany Rodning of Gaylord, both of whom are currently battling different types of cancer.

Mike Palmer is the father of Stephanie, who played for GFW and graduated in 2015, and current senior Jennifer and junior Megan. Tiffany Rodning is a Winthrop High School alumna and mother-in-law to current GFW coach Stephanie Rodning.

“The stands were packed, which was awesome,” Stephanie Rodning said. “Just to look out and see a sea of gray T-shirts in support of Tiff and Mike is really cool.

“And as I look around the gym right now after the match, even though we lost, it looks like we still won.”

The Thunderbirds (3-3, 1-1 Tomahawk) were resilient in responding to what the Tigers dished out. However, the Tigers seemed to have a slight edge in most facets of the match.

“They really stayed positive, which was a big part of it; they were confident,” Springfield coach Michelle Adrian said. “I could see it in their determination – they really wanted to win. We’ve set a goal to win the conference and I think they knew that this was going to be one of the biggest challenges to get there and they decided they wanted it.”

In the first game, the Tigers (7-3, 1-0) pulled away from the Thunderbirds with an 8-3 run that gave them a 15-10 lead after two-straight kills and a block by Rabb.

The Thunderbirds pulled to within three points two different times, but the Tigers finished the set on a 9-4 run to take it 25-17, finished by a kill by Rabb, a service ace by Kenna Wahl and a kill by Amber Fenger.

Both teams got to set point a combined four times in Game 2 before a booming kill by Emma Jo Elder and a big service ace by Erin Haas gave GFW the 28-26 win. During that set, five different players for GFW recorded kills and swayed momentum away from Springfield.

“Offensively, we were kind of going in streaks and when our offense was on, our defense wasn’t necessarily on,” Rodning said. “I wish we could play them again and have both those things be on together so we could show them what we’re made of.”

Both teams played neck-and-neck in the third game until Springfield jumped on a 5-1 run that gave it a 20-16 lead. Wahl tallied three kills in helping it win that set 25-19 to give it a 2-1 lead.

Rabb exploded for seven kills in the fourth set, helping Springfield holding off GFW 25-20 for the match. Rabb accounted for three kills around Wahl’s second ace in those closing points.

“If Vishe’ has got the right set, the right approach, the right hit, I would say it’s near impossible for teams to dig her,” Adrian said.

Senior setter Callie Wersal had 47 set assists for Springfield, helping fellow senior Alyssa Streich amass 12 kills and Wahl to 10 kills. Streich also had four service aces as well.

Junior outside hitter Katelynn Firle led the Thunderbirds with 10 kills, while Victoria Sweely and Maddy Elder had eight apiece and Emma Jo Elder had six. Jennifer Palmer had 30 set assists, 11 digs and two service aces, while Halley Busse had 22 digs and Haley Schwecke had five blocks.

Springfield hosts Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s on Tuesday, while GFW plays Thursday at Sleepy Eye.