VIRGINIA — The Minnesota North - Mesabi Range volleyball team wanted to play a clean game Wednesday in their home divisional matchup with Minnesota North - Rainy River.
The Norse did just that, cruising through the first two sets before taking the third with little issue in a 3-0 (25-11, 25-10, 25-15) sweep of the Voyageurs at William Wirtanen Gymnasium.
Making short work of Rainy River while earning another important conference victory, Mesabi Range head coach Sara Matuszak said her team came into the match with confidence that helped carry them through.
“Rainy came in with a new coach and a new group of girls,” Matuszak said. “I think they were struggling a bit defensively and offensively and our girls knew that so it really helped with our confidence. We had the momentum and I think we were able to take care of business with that on our side.”
Always a factor for the Norse is sophomore Kaelynn Kudis, who racked up 21 kills over the three sets with a .576 hitting percentage. The 2021 second-team all-American had little issue putting one down whenever she wanted against the Voyageur defense.
“They didn’t have a strong block so our hitters were blasting away,” Matuszak said. “If you don’t put a block on Kaelynn, you just can’t dig that so we kind of had a field day that way. Rainy is very scrappy defensively and their setter is really amazing on that end but I think our hitters didn’t have a lot of problems tonight.”
Mesabi Range got things moving in the first set with a quick four-point run. Kudis put down a kill for the first point of the match while Abbigail Shuster got one of her own from the back row to help the run. Rainy River got on the board with a kill from Maddie Lowe before a Norse error made it 4-2.
Mesabi Range didn’t slow down as a Joey Westby Kill got them back on the right track before the Voyageurs fired off two straight hitting errors to make it 7-2. An ace later from Shuster made it 13-7, a kill from Westby 14-7 and a kill from Kylee Huusko 15-8.
Another pair of kills from Kudis put Mesabi Range within five from the set, 20-9. The Norse quickly closed out the set with Huusko and Kudis finding another pair of kills, 25-11.
The second set was all Mesabi Range once again. Kudis gave the Norse an early lead with a pair of kills to make it 4-2 before Raven Sainio won a tip battle to make it 5-2. Later, a Sainio kill made it 9-5 before three straight Rainy River errors forced a timeout from head coach Shelby Nosan, 12-5.
Mesabi Range kept their distance the entire set with Sanio and Kudis adding more kills as well as Shuster and Lauren Lautigar serving up some aces. Up 24-10, another kill from Kudis ended the set and put the Norse one frame away from victory.
With Mesabi changing their rotation around to start the third set, the two teams played the closest they had all match. A kill and then a tip from Kudis put the Norse up, but the Voyageurs bounced back and eventually took a 6-5 lead with Kaitlyn Stavish winning a tip at the net.
The Voyageurs extended their lead with Stavish earning another point to make it 8-5. The Norse quickly found their form again and knotted things up with a Kudis ace and a Huusko kill making it an 8-8 game.
The Norse run continued with a Rainy hitting error followed by a kill from Westby and another ace from Kudis, 11-8.
Rainy River made things close one more time, but Mesabi Range pulled away, starting with a kill from Shuster — now seeing time in the front row in the new rotation — that made it 15-12. The Voyageurs hurt their cause with some more hitting errors before a kill from Kudis made it a 21-14 game.
Kudis grabbed two more kills while a Rainy River error gave Mesabi Range match point, 24-15. From there, a tip point from Sainio ended things, completing the sweep for the Norse.
Aside from her 21 kills, Kudis added three aces and two blocks. Westby had five kills and 13 digs, Shuster had four kills, three aces and 13 digs and Sainio had four kills. Lautigar finished with 32 set assists to go with eight digs and Steph Zimmer added nine digs.
Coming off of a tough, five-set loss to Northland on Saturday, Matuszak said after the game that her team came into Wednesday’s match prepared after a solid few days of practice.
“You come off of a loss that you really wanted to win and, of course, people were down. So we had to reflect on that and figure out what happened and then turn it around. The girls wanted to put in the work and clean some things up and they felt really motivated to do that at practice. Getting the win tonight kind of shows how we can perform when we’re motivated like we were.”
Mesabi Range hits the road tonight for a divisional matchup with Itasca before heading south to take on Division II Dakota County and MCAC South foe Anoka-Ramsey on Saturday. Looking ahead, Matuszak is looking for another solid practice leading into the weekend slate.
“We have to go into practice tomorrow and bring that momentum from the beginning of the week into the weekend. It’s a busy couple of days and it starts with a very important game with Itasca. The goal for us is to get a win and keep movin.”
North Woods 3,
South Ridge 1
At Culver, the North Woods volleyball team picked up an important 3-1 win over defending Section 7A champion South Ridge on Tuesday,
Lauren Burnett led the way for the Grizzlies with 16 kills to go with 18 digs and two aces. Sklyer Yernatich added 14 kills, three aces and 20 digs. Talise Goodsky commanded the floor with 35 set assists.
Addy Hartway added five kills, nine digs and three blocks while Hannah Kinsey had five kills and a pair of blocks. Tori Olson finished with a team-high 23 digs to go with two aces.
North Woods will be back in action Saturday at the Hill City Tournament.