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Volleyball: Red Wing learns lessons in loss

Red Wing setter McKenzie Cota (8) lobs a ball up for teammate Taylor Steger (9) as the Farmington block swarms to the net during Thursday's Missota Conference match in Red Wing. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Red Wing's McKenzie Cota (left) and Sydney Book go up for a block against Farmington's Emma Fahning during the second set of Thursday's Missota Conference match in Red Wing. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

This early in the volleyball season, it has been imperative for Red Wing to build what the coaches call a volleyball IQ.

Having that keen sense of situational awareness has been something the Wingers have improved on during the season, but is still very much a work in progress.

“Hopefully they’ll learn from every opponent they play,” said Red Wing head coach Heidi Ulwelling. “What I’ve seen out of these girls is they play better against better opponents.”

The Wingers put up a fight against Missota Conference rival Farmington, but they could not secure that elusive first win as the Tigers walked out of Sonju Gymnasium with a three-set victory, 25-14, 25-19, 25-19.

“We need to push more. We’re almost there,” said Wingers’ sophomore middle hitter Taylor Steger, who finished with nine kills and eight digs. “We need to push for it and be more aggressive out on the floor.”

Although Red Wing was able to tie up the first set twice early on, Farmington never relinquished its lead, winning the opener with ease. The Tigers gave the Wingers a healthy dose of outside hitters Morgan Cecchettini, Emma Fahning and Vanessa Garske as they accounted for eight points (seven kills, one ace serve) in the first set.

The Wingers jumped ahead right away in the second set with a McKenzie Cota ace serve, but Farmington climbed back due to attack errors from Red Wing. The Wingers were able to stay within four points of the Tigers for most of the set, thanks to a strong offensive push from Sydney Book, who had a team-high 13 kills.

Ultimately, Farmington took a 2-0 lead after Summer Skokan pounded the ball to the floor for the deciding point.

“We needed to cover from behind,” Steger said of the team’s defense. “We need to cover more, stay focused and go 100 percent at the ball.”

Following the tight second set, the Tigers looked ready to blow out Red Wing in the third set, sprinting out to a 5-0 lead. The Wingers were able to claw back to make it 8-7 following a kill by Book and an ace serve from Kelsey Holst.

Red Wing tried working the ball to the sides with outside hitters Book and Sara Kelly, but Farmington’s block forced the ball to the inside, limiting the Wingers’ attack.

“They sealed the net pretty well tonight,” Ulwelling said of the Tigers’ block.

Thanks to a kill from Steger, Red Wing cut Farmington’s third-set lead to 14-11, but the Tigers got the serve back following a block. From that point, Farmington scored seven of the next nine points to go up 22-13. Book and Steger found some holes in the floor to make it 24-19 before Farmington ended the match on a kill from Skokan.

Cota had 21 set assists for Red Wing, and libero Maria Furlong and Book shared the team lead in digs with nine each. Cota and Book also had two blocks in the Red Wing loss.

The Wingers (0-6, 0-3 Missota) head to Farmington Saturday for a 16-team tournament, opening play at 9 a.m. against Brainerd.

“We got Winona or Jordan, a top 10 team in 2A, in the second round,” Ulwelling said. “There are some good, tough teams in that tournament.”

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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