Hurrle 'sets' up Warriors for title shot
Molly Hurrle was a gift dropped in the lap of the Ridgewater College volleyball program.
The 5-foot-7 setter wasn't heavily recruited two years ago coming out of Kimball Area High School, about 20 miles south of St. Cloud.
She was far from ready to give up the sport, so she turned into the recruiter, seeking out a place to play.
Hurrle found a perfect match just 45 miles from home, in Willmar.
"She found us," Ridgewater coach Joe Sussenguth said. "She came to us in April of her senior year of high school. I couldn't be more thrilled with what she's given us the past two years."
Hurrle, a second-year captain at Ridgewater, was an All-American last season as a freshman. She's on pace to match that this season, with close to 1,200 assists. She also has the Warriors in position to match their finish from a year ago, when they won the school's third NJCAA Division III national championship.
"She's my assistant coach on the court," Sussenguth said of Hurrle. "She's been our captain for two years. She knows how to run an offense and she keeps the floor spread."
Hurrle paced Ridgewater to a pair of convincing 3-0 victories at the NJCAA tournament Friday, held at the University Center Rochester Regional Sports Center. The Warriors beat Davidson County (N.C.) Community College in the quarterfinals and Rock Valley College (Ill.) in the semifinals.
"I love this program. I've definitely gotten better over the past two years," Hurrle said. "It's nice to play so close to home, too. The fan support we have here is a big plus for us."
With Ridgewater's victories Friday, a rematch of last year's national championship match is set. The Warriors defeated Brookhaven College, from Farmers Branch, Texas, in last year's final. Brookhaven also won two matches on Friday to set up a showdown at 2:30 p.m. today.
Hurrle has helped the Warriors (30-3) get back to the national final by becoming a strong all-around player. She distributes the ball nicely to Ridgewater's seemingly unlimited supply of hitters, and she has developed her skills as a hitter in recent weeks.
"At the end of the day, she will have made each pass a good set," Sussenguth said, "and now she's become an attacker for us in certain rotations. It's just another way she has found to contribute offensively for us."
In the Warriors' 25-14, 25-23, 25-14 semifinal victory against Rock Valley, Hurrle had two kills, two assists and an ace serve in a 10-2 run to open Game 2.
In Game 3, she set up the team's top three hitters — Hannah Smith, Kelsey Sommes and Kelci Viesselman — for kills in a 5-2 game-opening run. Ridgewater never trailed after that, and Hurrle set up Smith for a smash down the line that ended the match.
"It's very nice to have all those options (to set to)," she said. "Everyone, all of our hitters, are threats."
Hurrle said she will continue her volleyball career somewhere next year, but she hasn't yet chosen a four-year school to transfer to. But, first things first: The Warriors are focused on their chance to win a second consecutive national title.
"There was some uncertainty at the start of the year," Sussenguth said. "We lost a number of sophomores (from last year's team) who meant a great deal to us. We knew our freshmen would have to play a key role right away.
"So with our sophomores — there's only four of them — but their leadership was huge right away, especially with a young group that was eager to contribute."