KoMets to write new story at state
In every sport, there are always sequences where the momentum swings backand-forth. While some sports represent the large pendulum of a grandfather clock, volleyball’s momentum shifts are more like a dog’s tail after seeing a bone out in the open.
During the season for the Kasson-Mantorville volleyball team, there were several ups and downs that came along the way. With injuries, sickness and rough patches along the way, the KoMets were able to stay focused through it all and earned their second consecutive Section 1AA championship with victories over Stewartville and Plainview-Elgin-Millville last week.
“I think invariably, there’s going to be some ups and downs in a volleyball season,” K-M volleyball coach Adam VanOort admitted. “We knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy road this year [to get back to state] and it wasn’t.”
In order to manage the highs and the lows, VanOort and his players have adopted the philosophy that each set has its own story. Just in the subsection final and section championship matches, the KoMets penned novels that invoked terror and pure bliss.
In their subsection championship match against Stewartville on November 6, K-M showed what they could do in the first set, jumping out to a 6-1 lead before eventually pulling away late for a 25-23 victory. In the second, the Tigers roared back, pouncing on the KoMets early with a 15-4 run and running away for a 25-7 win to even the match.
Despite the dominant effort from the Tigers, K-M knew that there was a fresh start beginning with the third set.
“Each set in volleyball has its own life,” VanOort explained. “We win a good battle in the first set and go get absolutely destroyed in the second set. Volleyball has crazy momentum changes, so after every set, we just say ‘Hey, we’ve got a new story to write.’”
“It’s all on us to choose how we want to write it,” K-M junior Abbey Bigelow added. “Every set, we just start with a clean slate and we don’t pay attention to any of the games that have already happened. We just start with that and play our best volleyball on our side.”
That’s exactly what the KoMets did in the second set as they produced a dominant set of their own, racing to a 14-1 lead and never looking back on their way to a 25-13 victory. With momentum on their side, K-M would open the fourth set with a 6-2 run to hold the lead throughout the fourth set. After a last gasp by Stewartville, Peyton Suess would earn the final kill to earn the 25-22 win, claim the match 3-1 and head to the section final.
“We’re able to calm ourselves down, get collected and just go back to playing our own game,” Suess said. “Instead of worrying about what they’re doing, we just focus on what we can do.”
The KoMets went into the section final knowing that they were one victory away from state, but the Bulldogs had other ideas. With their own story to write, P-E-M pulled away midway through the match and K-M couldn’t respond. Despite a late rally, the Bulldogs would take the first set and once again test the KoMets’ resiliency.
“It doesn’t matter how many times you tell the girls that this will be a battle,” VanOort said. “If they have it in their mind that they are going to beat that team, then that’s the way they’ll go out and play.”
After a quick regroup, the KoMets hit the delete button on the narrative they were providing and after another slow start in the second set, they turned it on with a 12-4 run to regain the lead and pull away for a 25-20 victory. Things would go in K-M’s favor from there winning the third set 25-17 and with an 18-3 start in the fourth, they would clinch the section title with a 25-9 win to head back to state.
“To be honest, I’m kind of glad we went through that experience,” VanOort said of the P-E-M match. “Maybe if they play a team they’re not familiar with at state, they’ll be ready, but it took them a half second to wake up and realize this was going to be a battle and they had to go out there and earn it. Once they got going, it was kind of downhill from there.”
The KoMets will open up the state tournament on Thursday night at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. With K-M being awarded the fifth seed in the eight-team tournament, they’ll face the Academy of Holy Angels at 5 p.m. If the KoMets advance, they’ll play in the state semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday night and the Class AA state championship at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
K-M will have another story to write at the state tournament, but the hope is that the experience of their fourth-place finish a year ago will help them go further this time around.
“I think we’re going in pretty confident,” Suess said of their chances. “Last year, we were a little iffy about what we’re supposed to do, but now we know the ropes. It’s exciting to see where we will go.”