NEW ULM - There were times in Monday's non-conference volleyball match between New Ulm and Marshall where it was easy to see why the Tigers are ranked as the No. 1 team in Class AA.
However, there were a number of stretches where a fired-up Eagles squad displayed some pretty good volleyball of its own, proving that the visitors would have to dig deep to assure themselves of victory.
In the end Marshall took care of business, surviving New Ulm's best efforts to earn a 25-14, 25-10, 25-15 victory.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm’s Ellie Schneider (15) dives to get to the ball during the Eagles’ loss to Marshall Monday at NUHS.
"I think there were a number of times tonight where we saw what we're able to do when things are really clicking for us," New Ulm head coach Chris Otto said. "They should definitely come away from this with more confidence in what they're able to do when they get all parts of the game put together."
The Tigers seemed on pace for a big victory in the first set when they pulled out to a 6-0 lead, later increasing the lead to 19-7.
From that moment on, though, the Eagles put together a 7-2 run that included a pair of kills each from Chase Schewe and Alley Grejtak and a kill by Katie Forst to make the score 21-14. The run fired up the home crowd and forced the Tigers to buckle down to avoid losing any more ground.
"I think the challenge of playing them actually got us pumped up a little bit more," Schewe said. "Obviously the other teams are a challenge too, but if anything, playing the No. 1 seed, that's what gets a team pumped up. The competition of it makes a team play their best, and I think for the most part we played well against them."
Marshall responded with a kill by Kenzie Beekman (16 kills, three ace blocks, five aces) and an ace by Angela Tauer (three aces), with Beekman providing another kill to end the set.
The Eagles didn't wait as long to get going in the second set. After falling behind 3-0, a pair of kills by Ellie Schneider tied the score at 4-4 and a kill by Sarah Nelsen provided another tie at 5-5.
"We hit really well and we served really well, but our passing could have been better," Schewe said. "Obviously they have a good offense, so that's where we struggled a little bit. But our hitting definitely came out a little more tonight."
New Ulm stayed within at least three points of the Tigers until the score was 11-9 in Marshall's favor, but at that point a five-point service run by Tauer followed by a seven-point service run by Rachel Sanow quickly brought about the end of the set, with Beekman providing the final point on another strong kill.
New Ulm surged at the beginning of the third set, with a kill by Schewe, an ace block by Grejtak and an ace by Briana Sieve giving the home side a 3-1 lead. The Eagles increased the lead to 6-3 after back-to-back kills by Nelsen and Schneider.
However, at that point Beekman completely turned things around by earning a kill that sent her to the line for a 15-point service run, which included four service aces and four kills by Sydney Griffin (11 kills, two ace blocks).
From there the Eagles launched an 8-3 run that included two kills by Schewe, and ace by Nelsen, a kill by Courtney Lang and a combined ace block by Grejtak and Forst, but the run only served to prolong Marshall's inevitable victory.
"We attacked the ball well tonight - we took advantage of some good sets in the front row, and we just struggled a little bit passing tonight," Otto said. "It's actually kind of interesting, because typically passing is one of our strengths. I mean, Marshall's definitely a strong serving team - they serve a tough float serve, and we were unable to adjust to that - but when we did pass, we were able to score points."
Schewe led the Eagles with six kills, with Grejtak adding five kills and one and half ace blocks. Sieve had eight digs and was 10-for-11 serving with one ace, Bree Friedman had 14 set assists and was 10-for-10 serving and Nelsen was 5-for-5 serving with an ace.
The Eagles (1-17) will take the confidence they gained on Monday into Thursday's home match against Blue Earth Area.
"It was intimidating at first, but I think at times we held with them," Schewe said. "That built our confidence up, that we could stay with the No. 1 team, so I think our confidence will be up for the next games."