Hibbing's jump serve kills Esko in section championship
In high school volleyball, there's a secret weapon not every team possesses: the jump serve. Hibbing has not one, but two players who can unleash the secret weapon on any given serve. And that's one of the reasons the Bluejackets are headed back ...
In high school volleyball, there's a secret weapon not every team possesses: the jump serve.
Hibbing has not one, but two players who can unleash the secret weapon on any given serve. And that's one of the reasons the Bluejackets are headed back to the state tournament.
Kate Lange and Kelsey Wirtanen are the main practitioners of the maneuver, and their use of the technique helped guide Hibbing to a 25-16, 25-11, 26-24 victory over Esko in the Section 7AA championship match Saturday night at Duluth Denfeld.
"Our jump serves were on today, and it set [the Eskomos] back a little bit," Hibbing coach Gail Nucech said. "They don't see it up here very often. [Kate and Kelsey] did very well on jump serves, and that gave us a boost."
Wirtanen, a senior setter, served seven aces and her junior teammate had four.
"When you serve aces, it really fires the team up and gives you momentum," Wirtanen said. "I don't think Esko has seen a lot of jump serves -- because we're basically the only team [in Northeastern Minnesota] that does it -- so they had a lot of problems receiving."
Hibbing (24-7) advances to its sixth consecutive state tournament and 22nd overall. The Bluejackets will find out today who they will play in a Minnesota Class AA quarterfinal Thursday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul when the tournament is seeded for the first time.
Esko finished 26-7.
Eskomos coach Desiree DeLeon acknowledged Hibbing's prowess with the jump serve generally affects the outcome of a match.
"It comes at you quicker and drops quicker, and you have to read it," she said. "It's a big factor."
And since Hibbing players return Lange and Wirtanen's serves every day in practice, that should give them the requisite repetitions necessary to face jump serves at the state tournament.
"That helps them, too, having someone coming at them [in practice]," said Lange, who led Hibbing with 12 kills and added three ace blocks.
The serving was especially key as Hibbing cruised to a two-game lead and a 7-3 advantage in third game. But Esko played differently from that point, taking a two-point lead and eventually evening the game at 24.
"We finally stopped being intimidated by their block," DeLeon said. "That's the type of game we planned on playing the whole time. The first two games we were nervous and intimidated by that block."
Hibbing won the final two points on an Esko serving error and a Lange kill.
Perhaps a jump serve ace would have been more fitting.
RICK WEEGMAN covers prep volleyball for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org