By Per Peterson
One point. That’s all it was. One point out of 145.
But what a point it was, and it all but summarized what — rom opening point to post-game celebration — was a classic volleyball match between arguably the two best volleyball teams in southwest Minnesota.
The big point came in the second set of Thursday night’s 26-24, 25-21, 25-20 TMB sweep over the Marshall Tigers. The Panthers, already up one set, built a 17-14 cushion and were working their way to a two-set lead. But not much came easy against Marshall, and the two teams engaged in a rally that had fans on the edge of their bleachers and bench players on the edge of their seats.
In the end — after about 45 seconds of diving saves, kills and tough digs — the Tigers came away with the point, and both teams came away with the respect of everyone in the gym.
TMB coach Rick Haberman stayed seated after the point; all he could was applaud — a show of respect, he said “for awesome volleyball,” he said. “We talked about it in between set two and three and again after the match — we didn’t even win that point, but it was just an awesome display of volleyball. Two teams that were fighting and scrapping, really determined to not let the ball hit the floor. I couldn’t ben tell you what all happened.”
TMB senior Evy Dolan echoed Haberman’s sentiment.
“Just back and forth, everyone was scrappy — we just knew we had to be there,” Dolan said. “Both teams at the net were just … there. Just insane. All around good volleyball.”
Not that fans from both sides expected anything less for these two teams, who meet at the end of every season in a match that serves as a tune-up for the post-season. That point, and the entire match, proved to Haberman his team is tournament-ready.
“To (sweep Marshall) shows a lot of mental toughness,” he said. “Marshall is an outstanding team. Coming in here and playing with the determination and toughness that we did was really good to see at this time of year.”
The point brought the Tigers to within a point, but they were unable to tie or take the lead the rest of the set. TMB’s lead grew to 23-20, forcing a Marshall timeout, and after a hitting error by the Tigers, the two teams traded service errors to give TMB the 25-21 win.
“We knew whether we won or lost this match that we would be better afterwards,” Haberman said. “Playing Marshall makes you a tougher team.”
TMB (26-3) stormed out to an 11-4 lead in the third set thanks, in part, to three ace serves by Syd Lanoue. The lead grew to 15-6 on another ace serve, this time by junior Samantha Edwards. The Tigers eventually got back in the set with an 8-5 run, but a service error gave the Panthers their 23rd point. A Lanoue kill from the back row and a kill by Dolan ended the set and the match.
“We’re just such a close-knit team,” said Dolan. “We knew if we stuck together as a team we could do it. It just took all of us.”
The Tigers, ranked second in Class AA, had a golden opportunity to snatch the first set. A 5-1 run midway through the set pushed TMB ahead 17-14, and it appeared the Panthers would run away with the set, as the Tigers shot themselves in the foot on three straight points. However, a 4-0 Marshall run seemed to have put the Tigers in the driver’s seat. Later in the set, it was the Panthers committing the errors, and with momentum on their side, the Tigers grabbed a 23-20 lead on a Jordyn Hilgemann kill.
Marshall (22-6) scored again to force set point, but a kill by Dolan and a block by Cassidy Smith and Cat Wendland tied the set at 24. A sneaky ace tip from Smith accounted for TMB’s 25th point, and when Marshall couldn’t return a TMB hit, the Panthers’ comeback was complete.
If there’s a triple-double in volleyball, Lanoue almost had it. The senior hitter had 21 kills, 10 digs and five service aces. Smith had 33 set assists and six digs, Dolan had 10 kills and nine digs, Edwards had seven kills and three service aces, Sid Karbo had seven kills and three digs and Kaylee Kirk had 23 digs for TMB, which served at a 93.2% clip.
TMB, ranked second in Class A, which lost to Marshall in last season’s regular-season finalé, will play host to xxxxxx at 7 p.m. on Friday in the Section 3A South quarterfinals.