A vast difference in school size made no difference when the Rush City volleyball team welcomed Class AAA Chisago Lakes to its home floor Monday night. The Tigers were never particularly threatened on their way to a 25-19, 25-19, 25-16 victory.
According to the official Minnesota State High School League enrollment figures, Chisago Lakes has 1,017 students in grades 9-12 compared to Rush City’s 228.
“These girls actually enjoy going out there and being the underdog, being the smaller school,” head coach Eric Telander said.
The Tigers and Wildcats split the first 20 points of the game evenly, before Rush City right-side hitter Kaylyn Bowen picked up three points on the serve. Jamie Guptill later picked up another trio of service points to help the Tigers to a 19-13 lead. A short Wildcat run was ended at 22-16 with a kill by Bowen.
At 24-18, the Wildcats fought off one set-point before Jamie Guptill put the set away with a powerful spike.
With the second set tied 3-3, Guptill put on an impressive serving run. Her first serve befuddled the Wildcats into bumping the ball into the visitor’s bleachers, then her next hit caused Chisago hitter Kennedy Phillips to bump the ball into her own face. The Wildcats played their next attempted return into the net.
After these comedy-inducing serves, Guptill next played a powerful line-drive serve into the back corner, beyond the dive of libero Audrey Roy.
Guptill served again to Roy, who had to drop low to make the bump, which flew backward out of bounds. The Wildcats had failed to return any of five consecutive Guptill serves. The Tigers built on that advantage to run away with the set. Shawna Mell made the set-clinching kill.
From a 6-5 lead, Taylor Williams served for eight straight points in the third set. Bowen would eventually get the kill that claimed set and match for the Tigers.
“We stress the first contact, and then I tell them we want to beat teams passing and serving,” Telander said.
The Tigers also won two games against competition their own size last week. After dusting East Central 25-5, 25-10, 25-9 Oct. 3, the Tigers won their homecoming match against Hinckley-Finlayson 25-9, 25-7, 25-16 Oct. 5.
“It’s always fun having a bunch of fans who don’t normally come to the games come out on homecoming week,” Telander said. “It’s fun to have them here and be a part of the experience.”
Including the results of two weekend tournaments, the Tigers have rolled to a record of 17 wins against three losses in 2017 and held steady at No. 10 in the new Class A state rankings released Monday night. The Tigers went to Braham Tuesday night after press time and will visit Pine City on Thursday; the Tigers have won home games against both opponents this season. The Tigers will conclude their regular season run with a home match against Ogilvie Oct. 17 before heading into Section 5A play.