Rush City volleyball falls to Park Center
In their first season of Class AA play, the Rush City volleyball girls made it to the second round of section play.
After defeating Milaca on Oct. 24, the Tigers advanced to play the north division’s No. 1 seed, Park Center, on the road in Brooklyn Park last Tuesday. Rush City, seeded fourth, fell in three sets to the Pirates.
Rush City was unable to stop Park Center, which came out with senior outside Jessica Velander leading at the helm.
Following the 25-17 loss in the first set, Rush City started set two on shaky ground. The Pirates’ offense jumped to a 2-0 lead before the Tigers answered with a sharp tip from senior Jessica Bottomley on the outside to put the score at 2-1. Park Center then tipped to zone two for another kill before Bottomley answered again by tooling off the opposing block for a point to close the deficit at 3-2.
But that would be as close as the Tigers would get to the Pirates. They went on a serving run with three aces in a row to jump-start a run that would hold the visiting team to just nine points at 25-9.
Rush City’s struggle to serve receive and hitting errors continued into set three. The Pirates jumped to an early 7-1 lead and never looked back, winning 25-10.
Sophomore Summer Garr led her squad with four kills and nine digs while junior middle hitter Kayla Nelson contributed three kills and two blocks. Sophomore Sammi Herberg recorded 11 digs while sophomore Sydnie Sybrant added five set assists and four digs.
“We came out a little tentative and nervous,” head coach Eric Telander said. “They had a couple of nice hitters and we struggled defensively. Park Center moved well and I think they’re a little quicker than what we’re used to, but all in all we underperformed — the girls would be the first to tell you that.”
Telander added that the Rush City girls played exceptionally in the first round of section play, winning 3-1 over Milaca.
Park Center went on to win the north division title of Section 5AA, but lost in five to Maple Lake in the final to advance to the state tournament.
This season, Rush City was led in kills by Garr with 153, followed by Nelson with 98, Bottomley with 68 and senior middle hitter Alissa Mell with 58.
From behind the serving line, Sybrant led her squad with 47 aces while Herberg and Garr recorded 41 and 31, respectively. Senior Taylor Youngblom added 21, followed by Bottomley (18). Sybrant set for 210 assists, followed by senior Taylor Youngblom with 124.
Nelson commanded the net on defense for the Tigers this fall with 44 blocks while Mell added 34.5. Herberg led the back row with 265 digs, followed by Garr with 171 and Bottomley with 151. Sybrant added 104 digs.
Looking back at the Tiger’s 14-10 season, Telander said that although he wished he could have the two losses to Braham back (3-0 and 3-1), he thought the Tiger squad showed promise in its young athletes. They will return five key contributors, four of which are sophomores.
“We have a lot of youth that are strong athletes, that want to do better in volleyball and that deserve to be successful too,” Telander said. “We have a big sophomore class — the stats are there and the writing is on the wall that we are strong in those young players. That is what will drive us in upcoming years.”