After losing the first set, the Wingers came out rejuvenated in the second set. Red Wing led 8-2 and had a lead for most of the set until Faribault went on 13-4 run to take a lead, eventually holding off the Wingers.
The fourth-seeded Falcons wrapped up the 25-17, 25-23, 25-17 win over the fifth-seeded Wingers Wednesday evening.
It appeared as if the Wingers were going to hang on for a win in the second set, reversing some of the Falcon’s momentum. Then who knows if the third set plays differently.
Senior Kennedy Knopp said they have always been able to grind out points and set wins. Nobody thought they were out of it even down two sets to none.
“I had no doubt we could come back in that second or last set,” Knopp said. “The amount of grit every single person has on this team is unbelievable. Everybody wants to fight.”
The do-everything senior kept many points alive in the second and third sets with superb digs; lunging for deflected balls and taking away the back corner defensively.
On offense, Knopp had most of the kills in the first set as the Wingers then involved the middle and right side more in the second and third.
Red Wing led early in the second set. They led, again, early in the third. Each time the Falcons regained a bit of composure and set up middle Emily Soukop and outside hitter Josie Herda. Knopp’s calm demeanor on the court throughout the season has helped the Wingers not get too overwhelmed in similar situations.
“I've seen great players get down on themselves on one bad point, which it isn't even their fault most of the time,” Knopp said on maintaining a level attitude throughout a match. “I think I say it every game, don't get down on yourselves. They're going to make good plays, but we're going to come back and make the next one.”
Head coach Nikki Roschen said Knopp did everything and more that she could have to lead the Wingers. Her play really stood out.
“She just played like I knew she would. She's a senior leader,” Roschen said. “She's a great all-around player, back row, front row. She wanted the ball wherever she was, yet she does a great job of being that way but still involving teammates in it.”
Making it tough for the Wingers to rally was the back row defense of Addison Dietsch and libero Clara Malecha. With Soukop hitting like an outside in the middle, that too created some problems.
Bri Tix, Teagan Walter and Mayzee Thorson each got to the net earlier and came up with multiple blocks, sometimes two or three in one volley. The biggest strength of the Wingers, the middle block, wasn’t enough though. The Falcons made desperation plays seemingly at will to keep points alive.
Roschen said it felt like the team was constantly on the defensive.
“Sometimes you make those great defensive plays, but you want to be on offense,” Roschen said. “Kind of felt like they were on offense more than we were.”
The Wingers do have a big junior group that grew a lot this season. Thorson, Tix and Taylor Shelstad all quickly became starters. Sophomore Lauryn Ball’s role grew as another outside hitter. Freshman Izzy Guetzlaff provided valuable defense in the middle and could earn the Wingers some points, too, on offense.
Tough to lose seniors Knopp, Walter, Greta Murphy and Brooke Strusz, but Roschen believes the outlook is bright next season.
Red Wing ended the season 10-16 overall.
Kills: Kennedy Knopp, 11; Lauryn Ball, 5; Teagan Walter, 3; Mayzee Thorson, 3; Bri Tix, 2; Taylor Shelstad, 1. Assists: Shelstad, 22; Knopp, 1; Thorson, 1. Digs: Knopp, 12; Thorson, 10; Ball, 9; Greta Murphy, 7; Tix, 4; Brooke Strusz, 3; Shelstad, 3; Walter, 1. Blocks: Thorson, 4; Knopp, 2; Shelstad, 2; Tix, 1; Ball, 1. Aces: Knopp, 5; Shelstad, 1.