Volleyball: Spartans go down to final freak-out
The Rochester Mayo volleyball team had battled its own demons most of the season, alternately resisting and succumbing to an opponent’s surging momentum.
Saturday brought the final "freak-out," as both coach and player described it.
Mayo’s second playoff comeback bid fell agonizingly short in the Section 1AAA championship match at Mayo Civic Center Arena, where Owatonna got hot at the end and won 3-2 to repeat as the section champ.
Owatonna prevailed, 25-21, 25-18, 20-25, 21-25, 15-7, and the Huskies reeled off 10 straight points in the fifth game to erase Mayo’s 7-5 lead and win the match.
"Frustrating, because I thought we had them stymied in that fifth game," said Mayo coach Deb Frederick, whose Spartans were after a third section title in five years. Mayo beat Owatonna in the section final in 2008 and again in 2010.
For Owatonna, which came back from a 2-0 deficit in the semfinal round against John Marshall, it’s the fourth section crown and second in a row. The Huskies, coached by Jason Kaytor, beat Faribault in last year’s section final and finished fifth at state.
"They freaked; they started to question their ability and their decision-making, and Owatonna capitalized," Frederick said of her team in the closing stage.
"We just kind of freaked out a bit at the end," said Mayo senior outside hitter Brooke Anderson. "It just kind of sucks, coming so close (to the state tournament) and then losing."
Mayo, the No. 3 seed, finished with a 17-12 record. The No. 3 seed Spartans nearly pulled off their second straight comeback in the playoffs, after a 3-2 semifinal win over Faribault in which Mayo trailed 2-1.
In the final, top seed Owatonna won the first two games and led the second game from start to finish. But that didn’t deter the Spartans.
"We have fought from behind before and won this season; we weren’t worried," Anderson said.
"Our slogan is ‘Fight’ and we did fight, right to the end," said senior libero Alex Herman.
Mayo bolted to a 7-2 lead in the third game, with sophomore Nora Holtan serving for five straight points and Owatonna making four hitting errors. The Spartans made it a double-digit lead at 22-12 on a four-point run, and Anderson won it with a left-side kill down the sideline.
Mayo likewise led from start to finish in the fourth game after scoring the first three points. The Spartans maintained a 2-4 point lead throughout and evened the match on freshman Anna Winter’s kill from the left side.
Eighth-grader Kate Holtan sparked Mayo in the fifth game, serving up four straight points including one ace to give the Spartans a 7-5 lead. But Owatonna ended the run with a kill in the middle by junior Kirsten Elstad, and it was the last time Mayo would see the serve.
Owatonna sophomore Elisabeth Buck served nine straight points, including one ace, and Elstad delivered five kills in the Huskies’ final run. Senior Rachel Malo scored the last two kills from the left side. Malo finished with 13 kills and Elstad 11 to lead Owatonna.
Frederick said the difference down the stretch was "aggressive play".
"They were aggressive, and we lost our aggresiveness in the last three or four points," she said.
Winter led Mayo with 13 kills, and juniors Mary Goergen and Ashlee Halstead had 10 kills each. Halstead also had a career-high nine blocks. Sophomore Nora Holtan had team highs with 12 digs and 32 assists.
Frederick said the season was a success despite this defeat.
"We were below .500 the first two or three weeks of the season, so to make it to the section final and finish 17-12, you can‘t be disappointed about that," she said. "I‘m very proud."
"I’m not angry or frustrated; we played well," Herman said. "I’m just sad it’s over; I’ve been playing volleyball since third grade."
SECTION 1AAA CHAMPIONSHIP
Owatonna 3, Mayo 2
No. 3 Mayo: Miranda Christenson 11 digs; Nora Holtan 32 assists, 12 digs; Brooke Anderson 11 digs; Mary Goergn 10 kills; Anna Winter 13 kills; Ashlee Halstead 10 kills, 9 blocks; Kate Holtan 2 ace serves; Andi Elvert 2 ace serves.
No. 1 Owatonna:Rachel Malo 13 kills, 1 block; Kirsten Elstad 11 kills, 2 blocks; Emily Spatenka 9 kills, 1 ace serve; bobbi Livengood 4 kills; Kaylea Ahrens 4 ace serves.