The Pirates broke a seven match losing streak with the victory.

    Only 10 days ago, the Crookston Pirates defeated the Warroad Warriors to claim first place in a tournament. This time, the victory counted for standings and the Pirates topped the Warriors 3-1 (25-18, 29-31, 25-23, 27-25).

    “Last time we played them, we were in the net a lot, we were under the net and they were too so we were getting injuries,” Kylie Solheim (Sr. S) said on the team’s familiarity with Warroad. “We realized this time, we’ve got to stay off the net and hit over their blocks.”

    Among the top performances was Solheim’s who led the team in digs, 12, and in assists, 43. Her season-high assists for one match puts her over 200 on the season at 217. Rachel Hefta (Sr. MH) put up 19 kills, the most since she scored 22 against Red Lake County Central on September 20. Hefta also blocked seven attacks to lead the team. Sydney Anderson (Sr. MH) rounded out the stat leaders with four aces.

    The Pirates (3-9) helped themselves to an early 5-3 lead featuring a kill and block from Hefta and a pair of kills from Kasey Cwikla (Jr. OH). The advantage grew to 11-6 with Hefta contributing another kill and Anderson joining in with a kill of her own.

    Crookston maintained at least a four point lead and later put together a 4-0 run with the help of a Hefta and Cwikla kill as well as a Cwikla block.

    With a 21-17 lead, Hailey Seaver (Sr. MH) tallied a kill and an ace by Cwikla awarded Crookston their 23rd point. The Pirates eventually closed out a 25-18 win with a kill from Anderson.

    Set two appeared to be a repeat of set number one. Seaver aced two serves in a row, Hefta followed with back-to-back kills and Crookston led 5-1.

    Warroad responded with their first legitimate run of the evening going on a 5-2 run to cut the Pirates’ lead down to 7-6. Crookston, however, quickly regathered their attacks and with two kills from Jasmin Hanson (Jr. MH) off the bench, the Pirates increased their lead to 14-9.

    Crookston led by as much as 17-11 when Warroad exploded for a 7-0 run which gave them their first lead since a 3-2 advantage in set one.

    The two squads traded points all the way to 25-25 and needed extra points to decide the set. Hefta tallied an ace and a kill, Seaver recorded a kill, Anderson notched a kill and Crookston held a set point four different times, but it was Warroad who emerged victorious taking the set 31-29.

    “I think we just had a little bit of a lull,” Head Coach Ashley Stopa said. “[Warroad] just pushed a little harder. The girls mentally said, ‘this isn’t going to happen again,’ and as soon as our serve receive was in the right spot, we were able to get those good hits.”

    Warroad recognized the bullet they dodged as they avoided a 2-0 deficit. The momentum swing carried into the third set with the two teams trading points throughout the set’s entirety.

    Crookston trailed 18-16 when Hanson came off the bench and scored two kills to tie the set. The Pirates later took a 20-19 lead courtesy of a Seaver kill and a Warroad hitting error.

    The Warriors stayed within one point and tied the set at 23-23. Hefta gave Crookston the set point advantage with a kill and a mishandled ball by Warroad one point later ended the set with a final of 25-23.

    The fourth set’s start indicated Crookston moved on from the disappointing finish to set two. Anderson aced a serve and Hefta sent an attack to the floor as part of a 5-0 run.

    Points kept coming to the Pirates as they completed a 9-2 run for a quick lead. The Warriors came within three down 13-10, but kills from Seaver and Hefta put a stop to the run.

    Similar to set number two, the Pirates led 17-11 and coincidentally, Warroad began another comeback. Soon, Crookston’s lead went down to five, then four, then three as they held a 22-19 advantage.

    Anderson recorded a kill and Seaver’s block made the score 24-20 with Crookston needing one more point to close out the win.

    Before the Pirates could blink, Warroad went ahead 25-24 and Crookston faced the danger of going to a fifth set.

    The idea of letting another lead slip away left the minds of the players as they rallied for three straight points behind two Hefta kills and won 27-25.

    Although the fourth set eerily resembled set two, Solheim said the team kept their composure.

    “We remained calm that set and we didn’t let the nerves get to us and we just played how we play volleyball,” Solheim said. “When I knew Sydney was going back there to serve, she’s a pretty consistent server, so I knew we got it then and there.”

    With three matches to go in the regular season, Stopa was pleased to get a home win and believes it can provide momentum as the postseason nears.

    “Mentally, they’re starting to get pretty tough,” Stopa said. “I think that with their push and their desire, I’m not scared with them on the court. This was our first regular season home win so that was huge. I think that they’re more confident and they’re ready to go.”

    Crookston (3-9) now heads to East Grand Forks on Thursday, October 4. The match starts at 7:30 p.m.

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For feedback or questions, contact the Times at (218) 281-2730, Nolan Beilstein at (940) 372-8175 or by email at nbeilstein@crookstontimes.com.