Top-ranked Tigers tear past Eskomos 3-0 in state quarterfinalsEsko volleyball loses against No. 1 ranked Marshall at state, play again today for consolation prize.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
ST. PAUL — Although inducted into the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Hall of Fame the day before, Marshall head coach Dan Westby knew his top-ranked Tigers couldn’t neglect Esko entering the state tournament Thursday.
His players took care of that.
Carried by their overpowering offense and deadening defense, No. 1-ranked Marshall wasted no time with the unseeded Eskomos in a quick 25-13, 25-18, 25-16 victory in a Class AA quarterfinal match Thursday evening at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The three-time state champion Tigers (28-4) never trailed by more than a point Thursday, as his girls put away a scrappy Esko team that Westby knew was hungry after going winless at last November’s state pinnacle.
“We didn’t play our best match tonight, but Esko had a lot to do with it,” said Westby. “They were two-and-out last year, and anytime that happens, kids want to make sure that doesn’t happen again. We told our kids it was going to be a challenge. (Esko) kind of scratched and clawed and kept things close. They’re a good team.”
Thursday, Marshall was just better.
All-State outside hitter Kenzie Beekman, like all season long, was Marshall’s centerpiece against the Eskomos. The 5-foot-10 sophomore had a match-best 16 kills, while teammates Sydney Griffin and Jessica Baker each added eight in stretching the Tigers’ win streak to 16, as well as their unbeaten set stretch to 27 straight dating back to Oct. 8.
“They were definitely a good team,” said Esko senior setter Stephanie Miller. “For some people, it was a little intimidating. In the beginning we were a little nervous and just couldn’t get our whole game together. We shined at certain points, but we just couldn’t stay consistent.”
Well put. Seemingly a little tight early, the Eskomos (26-5) never led in the opening two sets, while more competitive in the final frame, surrendered the closing six points before shaking hands a tad after an hour of play.
Adding to the Tigers’ intimidating stature, Esko hit just a miniscule eight-percent, while they committed 32 attack errors to Marshall’s nine.
“(Marshall) was a decent team,” said senior middle hitter Stephanie Bandelin, who led the Eskomos with 13 kills Thursday. “When we played with them, we played really well, but we had our ups and downs.”
Esko head coach Desiree DeLeon agreed afterward.
“They were good,” she said of Marshall, “but I feel like we could have played better. We made some mistakes on our own, so that’s frustrating.”
Taking five of her six available timeouts Thursday, DeLeon tried to stop the bleeding and most of all, keep things in perspective.
“A win was within our reach and we just didn’t capitalize,” she said. “But being at the state tournament is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
“It’s a little disappointing for us because we didn’t play our best game (tonight) and I think we could have beaten them if we played our game, but we didn’t,” Miller added. “We just have to remind ourselves that were in the top-eight teams in the state and have another game tomorrow.”
Miller was hinting that as Marshall rolls onto the semifinals, Esko will take to the consolation round when they clash with Visitation (24-7) Friday evening at 5 p.m. Last year, the Eskomos lost to The Blazer 3-1, yet this time around, are hoping their rematch dons different results.
“Tomorrow is another day,” continued DeLeon. “They’ll bounce back.”
“We’re just going to put everything down (from tonight),” added Bandelin. “All of us want that consolation trophy.”