Pirates dispatched by Thief River Falls on Senior Night
To coach Ashley Stopa, the Crookston volleyball team's problem isn't that it's not excited enough, but that it's too excited.
When things go well, the Pirates feed off it. When things don't go so well, their disappointment grows instead.
"Just leveling out, I think, will be good for them and working together as a team," Stopa said. "... The excitement still needs to be there, but the rollercoaster of push five and then let five go — we need to be a consistent team."
In a showdown between two teams searching for their first win of the season, Thief River Falls made quick work of Crookston, 3-0, at CHS Tuesday night.
Throughout the night, the Prowlers (1-3) capitalized on Pirate errors — letting the ball drop between two players, hitting out of bounds — and ran off big runs in response. The first set, at 25-14, was the closest, while Crookston (0-6) won just 19 points between the last two sets combined.
"The hard part is, (excitement is) really good, but it can also be pretty harmful for a player if they can't rein it in once there's an error or two," Stopa said. "For our girls, we can see it."
The Pirates were down 17-3 in the third set, the match appearing all but over, before they steadied themselves somewhat. Junior middle blocker Mallorie Sundeen had two straight kills, followed by a block, to get some momentum going, and Crookston appeared more cohesive overall as it played mostly even with Thief River Falls towards the finish.
"We pushed a little bit more," Stopa said. "... Mal did a good job. We knew where we needed to go, we were just not going there. We talked about it's not always the hardest swing, it's about the smartest play."
Since an encouraging performance in the season opener against Ada-Borup West, in which Crookston took the first set off the defending Section 8A runners-up and nearly won two more, Stopa thinks her team has become more hesitant. To fix this, she wants to see the Pirates play with the energy they had at the start of the season — but at the same time, be able to control it under adversity.
"I think we're scared to go to the ball, or we're a little bit more nervous, where before we'd just let the excitement go," Stopa said. "We gotta go back to the excitement and just go all out, versus hoping someone else is gonna go get the ball."
UP NEXT: The Pirates once again have a lengthy break between games, before they travel to Oklee to take on Red Lake County Central (1-2) Thursday, Oct. 29.
Stopa thinks the long layoff will be essential for Crookston, which spent little time with its full team together before jumping into the season with six games in 12 days, and has struggled playing back-to-back games as well. (The Pirates fell in three sets to Stephen-Argyle Monday).
"I think Monday-Tuesday is a little rough for us," Stopa said. "We have a hard time bouncing back midseason. We're ready for this break and to get some practices in. ... We need to come together as a team. We're gonna do a lot of team activities, so that we're comfortable with the people near us and that we communicate a lot more. Communication, we gotta step that up."
Thief River Falls will take on East Grand Forks (2-0) on Friday, Oct. 23 in East Grand Forks.
NOTES: Tuesday was Crookston's Senior Night; a chance for the Pirates to honor Amber Cymbaluk, Chloe Bruley, Emily Funk, Emma Boll and manager Jasmine Haglund. All four seniors on the varsity roster played substantially against the Prowlers.
"They gave it their all," Stopa said. "Amber Cymbaluk did a really good job of diving all over that floor, and Emma Boll too. Chloe made some good hits tonight. Emily was our setter tonight and she did a phenomenal job.
"They lead by example. They're very good on and off the court, showing underclassmen what it means to be a student-athlete. ... To get this in, to make sure we had a season, it's a moment that we'll remember, and hopefully we can remember them as the season keeps continuing."
Thief River Falls 3 (25-14, 25-10, 25-9), Crookston 0
- Kills: Mallorie Sundeen 6, Hannah Loraas 4, Libby Salentine 1
- Blocks: Mallorie Sundeen 1
- Assists: Emily Funk 10, Destiny Goulet-Ramirez 1
- Digs: Emma Boll 11, Libby Salentine 3, Rylee Solheim 3, Emily Funk 2, Mallorie Sundeen 2
- Aces: Mallorie Sundeen 1
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