Maverick volleyball earns return to state

ST. PETER – Back-to-back trips to the Xcel Energy Center.

Third-year Martin County West head volleyball coach Mary Sussenguth and the Mavericks earned their second sectional championship in a row and the program’s fourth Class A state appearance in the last six years on Saturday night.

Molly Klima generated 22 service points, Kate Thiesse produced 15 kills, McKenna Taylor notched six blocks and Kennedy Janssen doled out 32 set assists to power Martin County West to a 25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 25-10 triumph over the BOLD Warriors in the Section 2A finals on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter.

Martin County West (26-6) faces No. 3-seeded Southwest Christian of Chaska (28-5) at 3 p.m. Thursday in the Class A state quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

BOLD, the three-time Section 2A, North Sub-Section winner and 2011 state qualifier, ended its season with a 19-9 record.

“It’s fun that we were able to break the streak of making it to the state tournament every other year,” Sussenguth said in reference to the Mavericks’ previous state bids in 2012, 2010 and 2008 after the program’s state debut in 1991. “This year’s team has faced so much adversity that it’s an understatement to say that they deserve what they’ve accomplished tonight.”

Indeed. The Mavericks’ season-opener was postponed on Aug. 26 due to an automobile accident involving junior outside hitter Taryn Tumbleson, who missed the entire fall season after starting on last year’s state-qualifying team.

Tumbleson, however, continues to make remarkable progress in her recovery and was courtside with her teammates when BOLD’s final shot sailed into the antenna to clinch Martin County West’s 3-1 victory during Saturday night’s sectional championship match at the Lund Center.

“Every player has really stepped up the level of their play throughout the sectional playoffs, and that balanced effort and hard work has paid off,” said Sussenguth.

Ironically, the Mavericks found themselves in an unusual position during Game 1 of the sectional championship, trailing the Warriors by a 22-18 deficit before Reilly Geistfeld delivered a pivotal sideout kill off of a Janssen set assist.

Janssen, who delivered a 14-for-14 performance from the line, then assembled the game-winning six-point service run to cap the Mavericks’ 25-22 comeback victory.

Geistfeld and Taylor combined on a double block to give MCW its first lead – 23-22 – since 11-10 and forced BOLD to call timeout.

Taylor then elevated to pound down a Warrior overpass for Point 24 before a BOLD tipping error closed out Game 1 in the Mavericks’ direction.

BOLD outside hitters Carly Sigurdson and Mallarie Steffel, however, answered the challenge from both the frontline and the service area to keep Game 2 close on the scoreboard.

MCW built an 11-8 lead on the strength of three Hailey Leiding kills and Thiesse’s four-point service stint before Steffel converted setter/hitter Baylie Kubesh’s assist for a key sideout spike.

Sigurdson reeled off three points behind Steffel’s pair of cross-court kills to claim a narrow 12-11 edge, but Taylor and the Mavericks would counter.

Taylor’s rejection allowed Klima to rotate to the end line and the Mavericks’ junior backrow specialist reeled off four clutch points to regain the lead on the scoreboard at 18-14.

Sigurdson, however, smacked down one of her team-leading 10 kills to send teammate Andrea Maher to the service area trailing 21-19.

Maher chalked up six unanswered points, with Steffel delivering the game-winning kill off a Kubesh set, to claim the second game at 25-21 and even the match at 1 game apiece.

Then Klima, Thiesse and Leiding took control of the airwaves at the Lund Center.

Leiding blasted a cross-court kill to gain possession at 1-all in Game 3 before Klima lined home nine consecutive points to shift the Mavericks’ express into high gear at 10-1.

Thiesse recorded three kills and a block during the offensive avalanche, while Klima delivered two of her match-high five aces and Leiding pounded down two of her seven kills to add fuel to the point production.

Kubesh’s blocking prowess and spiking skills kept BOLD within striking distance at 23-21, but Thiesse unleashed a blurring spike to halt the Warriors’ Paige Larsen’s five-point service run.

Defensive specialist Haley Jensen, who connected on 17 of 18 serves for a dozen points, delivered the Game 3-winning point from the service line to cap the Mavericks’ 25-21 victory.

Jensen then picked up in Game 4 where she left off in Game 3, assembling a pivotal four-point service run to widen MCW’s margin to 8-1.

Leiding notched one of her four blocks to quickly place the volleyball in teammate Autumn Smith’s capable hands and Smith reeled off four more Maverick points for a 13-2 edge.

Jordan Gregory, who drilled six kills on the match, later delivered three key service points from the line to extend MCW’s lead to 20-6.

Despite Kubesh’s pair of blocks down the stretch, Jensen served out the final three points of the 25-10 Game 4 victory, with Leiding and Thiesse displaying their vertical jumps in recording back-to-back blocks during the run.