The win extends Crookston's streak to four in a row.
The Crookston Pirates entered the CHS gym one last time and dominated the Climax/Fisher Knights 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-23) on Senior Night.
Crookston’s five seniors, Rachel Hefta (Sr. MH), Hailey Seaver (Sr. MH), Sydney Anderson (Sr. MH), Kylie Solheim (Sr. S) and Katelynn Genereux (Sr. S), did their part combining for 28 kills, 38 digs and four aces.
“I think they worked well as a team,” Head Coach Ashley Stopa said. “I think my seniors did a good job stepping up and just playing. We were ready for as many sets as we needed to and we were just going to make it happen.”
Hefta kept it simple when asked to describe playing her final volleyball match in the Crookston gym.
“That was so much fun,” Hefta said. “We just all talked and were working together to make sure we knew what we were doing and we tried to make everyone feel welcome.”
Hefta led off the match with a kill on the way to a 3-0 lead for Crookston, but the Pirates’ offense did not need to be on full force in this match as a number of points were granted from Climax/Fisher’s mistakes.
The lead stayed at three as the Pirates led 6-3. The Knights scored three in a row to tie the set and then allowed three straight after committing two hitting errors.
Climax/Fisher got within one down 10-9, but Crookston rattled off five straight points courtesy of two Hefta kills and a kill from Anderson and Rylee Solheim (Fr. OH).
With all the mistakes on both sides, Hefta admitted finding a rhythm proved difficult.
“For a while, we were kind of off our game,” Hefta said. “We had no idea what was happening, but then, we kind of caught on and started going with the groove more. We just really worked together and made sure we were communicating and talking. We had a few lulls in there so we made sure we got out of it and started talking once again.”
The Knights crept back into the set and trailed 16-14. A hitting error increased Crookston’s lead to 17-14 and Rylee Solheim added on with an ace. The Knights scored their 16th point, but the Pirates already owned 21 and scored the next four which included a Seaver ace and a Hefta kill to claim set one 25-16.
Set two acted similarly to the first. The Pirates never took total control, but maintained a healthy lead throughout the set.
The Knights took an early 2-0 lead, but it did not last long. A service error awarded Crookston their first point and Anderson aced a serve to cap off a 5-0 run.
After a service error by the Pirates, Hefta recorded two kills and Crookston led 7-4. Kasey Cwikla (Jr. OH) got in on the action and tallied an ace and Rylee Solheim followed up with an ace to keep the Pirates ahead at 9-6.
The two and three point leads for the Pirates persisted. Up 12-10, Seaver sent a ball to the floor and a Knights’ hitting error resulted in a 4-1 Crookston run for a 16-11 advantage.
The Pirates expanded on their lead and fended off the Knights to a 23-19 situation. Hefta put a bow on the set with a kill and an ace to equal the 25-19 final.
The Knights put together their most competitive set kicking off the third frame with a 9-6 lead. Momentum shifted to Crookston when Seaver added a kill to her stats. Two points later, Hefta tied the set at 9-9 with a kill and Rylee Solheim’s kill helped the Pirates take an 11-10 lead, their first since going ahead 4-3.
Climax/Fisher tied the score at 11 apiece, but Crookston quickly responded with a kill from Hefta en route to a 15-11 lead.
“We just tried to push our passes up to the net more and keep them away from the middle of the court,” Hefta said.
Once the Pirates went ahead by four, the Knights rallied for a 9-3 run and suddenly, the third set did not seem so automatic.
Although her team needed to play from behind to complete the sweep, rather than draw up a sophisticated game plan, Stopa asked her players to find a sense of thrill.
“[I told them] to get excited,” Stopa said. “For some of them, it’s the last time they’re going to step on this court as a volleyball player and they just needed to get excited.”
Down 20-18, a service error cut the deficit in half and two points later, the Pirates sat four away from a match win up 21-20.
The two squads traded points and a kill by Hefta put Crookston at match point up 24-23. A violation gifted the Pirates a 25-23 win and the match.
Crookston (6-9) now awaits their seeding for the first round of the Section 8AA Tournament which takes place on Thursday, October 25.
Hefta knows there is work to be done, but took a second to take in the moment of playing in her final year of volleyball with her classmates.
“This entire adventure with everybody from basketball to volleyball has been so amazing,” Hefta said. “We’ve had such a community-based team for such a long time and it’ll be hard to let go of that.”
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