The Medford Tigers volleyball team was swept in the state title match Saturday by the top ranked Minneota Vikings.  The scores were 25-20, 25-14, 25-11.  The loss did not dampen the Tigers spirits after three days of intense volleyball.  Head Coach Missy Underdahl said, “I’m so proud of these girls for their fearless pursuit of victory.  Minneota is an outstanding team.  Just like every other team up here.  Hopefully this experience will make the girls hungry to get back here next year.  The second place finish is awesome.”

They could.  Medford’s top hitters at state were junior Emma Kniefel and sophomore Kinsey Cronin.  Setter Morgan Langeslag is a junior and libero Kiley Nihart a junior.  Without a doubt the three seniors for the Tigers will be missed and helped lay down the foundation for a successful program.  Rachael Luebbe, Journey Anderst and Meredith GIllis were hard workers who led by example on and off the court.

Medford ended their season with a record of 29-6. Their first trip to a Section final was followed by their first trip to a state tournament. The Tigers were trying to become the third Gopher Conference team in five seasons to win a state title.  Bethlehem Academy did it in 2014 and Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in 2015 when they downed BA in the title match.

Minneota lost in the finals last year to Mayer Lutheran (25-19,25-16,25-13) after defeating Faribault Bethlehem Academy (25-19, 27-25, 25-11) in the semifinals.  What a difference a year makes.  The Class A State Champions finished the year 36-1.  Their only loss was to Class 3A Northfield in a tournament.  Head Coach Hayley Fruin recorded her 99th career coaching victory with the Clara A championship match win.  It was the 12th trip to state for Minneota and their second championship.

Medford hung with Minneota in the first set where both teams were efficient on offense.  The Tigers had an attack percentage of .333 and the Vikings .439.  Medford only led once in the match,  2-1 in the first set.

The second set Minneota had a .371 hitting percentage, the third .480.

The Tigers hit .069 in the second set and .059 in the third.

Cronin was very efficient with just one hitting error, 10 kills and a .474 hitting percentage.  Kniefel finished with 12 kills and a .205 attack.  Luebbe collected 9 kills and hit .074.

For the match the Vikings had a blistering .426 hitting percentage and Medford hit .167.  Minneota has just 6 hitting errors the entire match.  Medford finished with 16.

Langeslag had all 31 of the Tigers assists.  Unlike the previous two matches Medford did not extend points with regularity.  Nihart was the only Tigers player with double digit digs (11).

Team blocks were 8-5 in favor of Minneota.

5’7 sophomore libero Abby Hennen collected 24 digs.  5’8 senior setter Morgan Kockelman 41 assists.  5’9 freshman Natalie Rolbiecki and 5’10 senior Lydia Sussner each had 14 kills.  Rolbiecki smacked a .542 hitting percentage and Sussner .444.

I talked to a reporter from northern Minnesota covering Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa after the semifinal Medford victory over the Jaguars and he “loved the intensity Medford played with.”

That described it perfectly.  The Medford Tigers captured my heart too with their refuse to lose attitudes.  The team that was never ranked this season should start next year in the rankings. They’ve earned that respect.

Medford Huddles During Semifinal Match. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld