Pirates show resiliency, but can't climb all the way back against Red Lake County Central

Jacob Shames
Crookston Times
Crookston's Chloe Bruley (left) and Mallorie Sundeen (right) try to block a Red Lake County Central shot in Thursday night's match in Oklee. The Mustangs won in three sets, 25-16, 25-22 and 25-22.

OKLEE — On the heels of six straight losses to start the regular season, Crookston volleyball coach Ashley Stopa changed some things up Thursday.

Against Red Lake County Central, Rylee Solheim, normally an outside hitter, played in the middle. Chloe Bruley played on the right side instead. The only thing that remained the same from the Pirates' previous rotation was Mallorie Sundeen at middle blocker, and Emily Funk and Libby Salentine at setter (though they were setting out of the outside instead of the middle).

The hope was that these changes, plus the nine days offsince Crookston's 3-0 loss to Thief River Falls on Oct. 20, would provide a spark for a team in need of one.

"Rest is good, but rest is also hard," Stopa said. "I think they were rested, but they also knew that the game was coming up. They were kind of anxious. ... The girls were ready to try something new and just stay aggressive."

The changes weren't enough for a win, as the Mustangs took all three sets to drop the Pirates to 0-7 on the season. But they did result in plenty of encouraging signs.

"They did a good job," Stopa said of her players in new spots. "The teamwork together to make sure people knew where they were going and what jobs and roles they were supposed to fill. We're just starting to hone in on everybody's potential."

The first set, a 25-16 Red Lake County Central win, was marked by seven straight points by RLCC (3-3) as part of a 13-5 run, nullifying a strong start and nice finish for Crookston.

But that was the most lopsided Thursday's match would be, as the Pirates fought back from deficits in each of the final two sets. Needing to win seven straight points just to stay alive, Funk drilled three aces during a 5-0 run to put Crookston within 24-22 before the Mustangs ultimately won the set.

RLCC went up 13-5 to start the third set before Solheim had two aces of her own and Sundeen got going with several kills from the middle. It was on one of those kills that the Pirates took an 18-17 lead — their first since the score was 7-6 in the first set.

"Our girls were a lot more communicative today," Stopa said. "They had a lot more conversation in set three. ... They were just working together and being aggressive."

Crookston came as close as 23-22 on a Bruley kill, but a hitting error and a Mustang kill did the Pirates in.

That meant a sixth straight three-set loss for the Pirates, and a team still winless at the season's halfway point. But it also made for Crookston's closest defeat since a loss at Fertile-Beltrami on Oct. 10.

"I'd say my team has a lot of grit," Stopa said. "We didn't quite start the way we wanted to, but we made sure that we always kept battling and kept fighting."

UP NEXT: The Pirates will take on Mahnomen/Waubun (1-4) on Monday, Nov. 2 in Mahnomen, the second of five straight road matches they'll play. Red Lake County Central's next game is Monday against Red Lake Falls in Oklee.

Rylee Solheim fires down a kill in Crookston's three-set loss to Red Lake County Central on Thursday night.


Red Lake County Central 3, Crookston 0 (25-16, 25-22, 25-22)


  • Kills: Mallorie Sundeen 5, Chloe Bruley 3, Rylee Solheim 2, Amber Cymbaluk 1, Destiny Goulet-Ramirez 1, Hannah Loraas 1, Libby Salentine 1
  • Blocks: none
  • Assists: Libby Salentine 8, Emily Funk 4
  • Digs: Rylee Solheim 6, Emma Boll 4, Chloe Bruley 3, Emily Funk 3, Amber Cymbaluk 1
  • Aces: Emma Boll 4, Emily Funk 3, Rylee Solheim 2, Amelia Overgaard 1

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