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Volleyball: Bombers diffuse Wingers' rally

Cannon Falls setter Hailey Huseth dives for a loose ball during Thursday's non-conference match at Red Wing. Huseth finished with 33 set assists and seven kills in the Bombers' four-set victory. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)1 / 2
Red Wing's Taylor Steger (middle) takes a swing at the ball while Cannon Falls blockers Callie Loeschke (6) and Katie Noble (8) try to block during Thursday's non-conference game in Red Wing. Steger finished with seven kills in the loss. (Republican Eagle photo by Joe Brown)2 / 2

After two matches this year, Red Wing has shown that it can compete. Meanwhile, in two matches this year, Cannon Falls has shown that it can finish.

Despite a third- and fourth-set surge by the host Wingers, the Bombers were able to leave Sonju Gymnasium with a four-set non-conference victory, 25-13, 25-9, 22-25, 25-20.

Cannon Falls is still showing its inexperience at the varsity level following the graduation of six seniors from the 2013 squad. But with a five-set win over Glencoe-Silver Lake on Aug. 23 followed by Thursday’s victory, the Bombers continue to find a way to win.

“I’m proud of them for being able to finish,” said Cannon Falls head coach Melissa Huseth. “We had definite spots in the match where they relaxed a little bit and allowed the other team in, and that’s what kind of happened in Glencoe also. When that happens, it’s such a momentum game that the other side takes advantage of that and they capitalize. They said tonight, ‘We’re going to take this one, coach.’ They got out there and finished it.”

It looked as though early on that the Bombers would finish it early as Red Wing struggled to get its offense set. The Wingers trailed by as much as 13 in the first set (18-5) and by 16 in the second set when Sami Cromer ended the set with an ace serve.

With a 2-0 lead, the Bombers were brimming with confidence.

“We have some really good passers in the back row so we’re able to run some offense,” Melissa Huseth said. “Hailey (Huseth, Cannon Falls’ setter) does a nice job of moving that ball around and seeing a bunch of different hitters. … Some of these girls are really new to the court, but they don’t play that way. They play very aggressively and with confidence.”

With their backs against the wall, the Wingers were finally able to string some points together and build some confidence of their own.

“Red Wing started passing a lot better so they could run some of their offense,” Coach Huseth said. “I Think maybe that’s what they struggled with the first two sets.”

After trading the lead throughout the third set, Red Wing was on the brink of defeat after a service error gave the Bombers a 22-21 edge. Thanks to kills from Sydney Book and Olivia Brown, the Wingers strung together four straight points to win the third set and extend the match.

“It was kind of a slow start but towards the end of the second game and the third game, we kind of finally started to pick up some momentum and had a little more confidence in what we could do,” said Red Wing head coach Jackie Braithwaite.

“We keep telling them that if we can get our passes up to target and run our offense, we do so much better keeping the other team off-balance. When we can’t get our passes up to target is when we struggle, probably like any other team. We finally got our passes up to target and the girls were actually getting excited when the girls got a point and did well.”

And the Wingers stayed competitive due to some balanced hitting. Following Book’s team-high 11 kills, Taylor Steger and Taylor Quandt each had seven kills, with most coming in the third and fourth sets. Steger also had five digs, two ace serves and a block.

“Those two, in the first match, maybe only had two kills each, and this time they had seven,” Braithwaite said. “We need that out of those two. We can’t just rely on one person.”

Cannon Falls (2-0) managed to take a 20-12 lead in the fourth set. And despite a strong effort by Red Wing to close that gap to three (21-18, 22-19), the Bombers were able to finally neutralize the upset bid.

Katie Noble was Cannon Falls’ top attacker with 11 kills and two blocks. Callie Loeschke finished with six kills, 12 digs and five ace serves, and Hailey Huseth tallied 33 set assists and seven kills.

For Red Wing, McKenzie Cota had 26 set assists and six digs, and Maria Furlong chalked up 17 digs in the back row.

It wasn’t a win for the Wingers (0-2), but it continued to show the team’s progress.

“This is progress. This is improvement. They’re happy that they can show they can compete and get a win out there,” Braithwaite said. “They’re playing more as a team now and I’m glad to hear that. I just hope we can keep doing better each time.”

Red Wing makes its return to the Big Nine Conference on Thursday at Winona, while Cannon Falls opens Hiawatha Valley League play Tuesday at Rochester Lourdes.

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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