After scoring nine straight points to win set one, Crookston lost the following three sets to drop their first match of the season.
If the first set had been an indication of how the match would play out, fans might have guessed a Crookston victory. However, after the Pirates mounted a successful comeback in set one, the Fosston Greyhounds rebounded to win the following three and take the match 3-1.
The Pirates (1-1) managed to stay within striking distance of the Greyhounds due to mishandled balls and balls hit out of bounds. Junior Kasey Cwikla started off the offense with a kill as part of a 6-1 run that handed Crookston a 6-2 lead.
The Pirates offense struggled to get in a rhythm and the two teams traded blows all the way to an 11-11 tie when Fosston began a run of their own. The Greyhounds went on to score four straight points and led 15-11.
A ball hit out of bounds ended the streak and a block by senior Rachel Heft, who led the team in digs (9) and kills (8) on the night, brought Crookston to within two only to be followed by an 8-3 Fosston run.
Trailing 23-16, Crookston’s offense came alive in grand fashion. The rally started with a kill by senior Sydney Anderson and Cwikla followed with a pair of aces to make the score 23-20.
Three of the next four points came from either violations or balls hit into the net by the Greyhounds. The other point came from another Anderson kill. Cwikla finished off the comeback with an ace that sailed out of bounds deflected by a Fosston player and the Pirates won set one 25-23.
“I give credit to the defense, but also Kasey for her mental toughness of getting those serves in,” Head Coach Ashley Stopa said.
In the second set, Crookston took a 4-3 lead on three consecutive points featuring a Cwikla kill, a Hefta ace and a floater kill by Hefta.
The Greyhounds retaliated with a 10-3 run and led 13-7. But once again, the Pirates fought back. It started with a Fosston service error and continued with an ace by sophomore Emma Boll to make the score 13-9.
With Fosston leading 14-10, the Greyhounds committed another service error setting up Hefta for another kill. One mishandled ball and an ace by senior Hailey Seaver later and Crookston had tied the game at 14-14. Seaver’s four aces on the night led the team.
Following the Pirates’ rally, Fosston found the holes in the Pirates’ defense and controlled the rest of the match holding Crookston to only three more points. The Greyhounds went on to win the set 25-17.
“I think that in the first set, we were excited to get on that court,” Stopa said. “And then, I think Fosston amped up their excitement level as well. We started to get a little bit more tired and a little less communication.”
The momentum set two’s win provided for Fosston carried over into set three. The Greyhounds jumped out to a 15-7 lead, but the resilient Pirates erased a large deficit for the third straight set. Crookston shrunk the deficit to 16-11 when Seaver aced a serve and made the score 16-12. Three points later, Hefta sent a blistering spike to Fosston’s side and put Crookston within three down 17-14.
The Greyhounds limited the damage and went on to score the next four points. The Pirates scored only two more times and lost set three 25-16 to go down 2-1 in sets.
Stopa commended the moments when her team struck for consecutive points, but pinpoints the overall problem to a lack of players talking with one another on the court.
“I think we’re on a roller coaster with communication,” Stopa said. “We just need to be steady and then we won’t have those spurts. We’ll just keep pushing and keep being the team that wins.”
Down to their last chance, Crookston started the fourth set with a promising 6-2 lead. Fosston retaliated with a commanding 15-3 run and led 17-9. Crookston rode a four-point stretch and only trailed 17-13 before a rally-ending point and a momentum-swinging block put the ball back into Fosston’s hands. The Greyhounds later took the set 25-17 and won the match 3-1.
In future games, Stopa plans to improve on the players’ fundamentals when it comes to serve receive.
“We’re going to live or die on serve receive this year,” Stopa said. “I think our hitters can take care of the ball. We just have to get it to our setter for her to put up a good set.”
At 1-1, Crookston stays at home to face Ada-Borup on Thursday, August 30 at 5 p.m.
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