—by Todd Thorson

The Norse girls ran into a tough sixth ranked Nevada Cubs team last Tuesday night (Sept. 10) in Story City, as they struggled from the outset in losing in straight sets 3-0. The girls could never get in sync, as too many errors and constant pressure by the Cubs took the Norsemen out of their comfort zone. Set scores were 25-20, 25-21 and 25-14, and though the scores for games one and two look close on paper, they really were not that close.

"This was a tough loss!" said a dejected Coach Molly Geise. "The girls have talked about this match for a long time and have put a lot of emphasis on how we wanted to win it. Last year we played our worst match of the year against them, and wanted to prove otherwise this season. Although we didn’t play as unorganized as last year, we struggled (again) this year."

The Norsemen had trouble with their passing, as well as handling Nevada’s serves. And when the Norse did make a good pass or set, a costly hitting error would occur. The Cubs also made several key digs and saves, and would then take it right back at the Norsemen.

"We had nine hitting errors in game one and seven in game two," explained Geise. "That’s very hard to overcome against a quality team. But give Nevada credit, they are a team that puts constant pressure on you, and their play forced us into making those errors, as well as taking us out of our game."

Lauren Himan led the Norse with a 20 for 28 performance at the net, with six kills. Schyler Polaski went 17 for 21 in attacks, with four kills. Anna Himan was 10 for 15 in the attack zone, with five kills. And Kelsey Polaski went 8 for 10 at the net, with three kills. Libby Faga had nine assists. Jennfer Demiter posted 15 digs, while Lauren Himan had 10. Libby led in serves, going 15 for 15 with three aces, while Anna Himan was also perfect from behind the back line at 12 for 12 and two aces.

East Marshall Tourney

The Norsemen girls breezed through their first two matches of the day last Saturday at the East Marshall Tournament in LeGrand, but then the error-bug reared its ugly head once again. After defeating host East Marshall, 21-14 and 21-13, and Tri County, 21-7 and 21-11, the Norse stood poised, ready to cruise through pool play unbeaten at 3-0. But after winning game one rather easily 21-15 over a ranked Des Moines Christian outfit in their final pool play competition, the bottom fell out, as too many hitting errors plagued the Norse girls once again. Christian went on to win games two and three, 21-14 and 15-10, to take the top spot in their pool, relegating the Norsemen to second fiddle in the semifinals opposite #1 seed Union, who happened to also be ranked #2 in Class 3A.

"The loss to Christian stung the most, in my opinion," said Coach Geise, "because I know, without a doubt, we were better than they were. But they out played us in games two and three."

Against Union, the Norsemen fell behind early in game one, as their serving began to struggle as well. The Norse served at only 60 percent in the first set, as Union breezed to a 25-15 victory.

"I think our play from the Christian match carried over a little bit," continued Geise, "but then our confidence came back and we started playing the way we can."

In set two versus Union, an exciting game unfolded, as the two teams stayed close to one another. R-S took an early 6-3 lead, only to see Union reel off an 8-2 run to assume an 11-8 advantage. But the Norse tied it at 11-11, thanks to a side out and two fine serves by Alexa Whipple. Points were then traded back and forth before Union broke away for a 20-15 lead. A 6-3 run by the Norse pulled them to within 23-21 before a side out put Union one point away from the match.

But the Norse girls fought hard and valiantly, as their fans cheered loudly, scoring three consecutive points to tie the game at 24-24. A kill by Schyler Polaski, an ace serve by Molly Fink and a fine defensive save/dig by Kelsey Polaski helped knot the score. Unfortunately, a couple of crucial hitting errors resulted in a Union victory at 26-24.

Against East Marshall, Anna Himan led the way with a 14-for 15 performance at the net, including 12 kills. Lauren Himan was 11 for 11 in attacks, with five kills. Libby Faga dished off 13 assists.

In the Tri County match a trio of net players excelled for the Norse. Schyler Polaski was 10 for 11 in attacks, with four kills. Lauren Himan was 9 for 11, with seven kills. And Anna Himan was 8 for 10, with seven kills as well. Libby Faga was busy all over the floor, as she registered 19 assists.

In the three-set Christian match, Lauren was 24 for 27 at the net, with 10 kills. Anna went 14 for 17, with eight kills. And Schyler was 10 for 16 with four kills. Alexa Whipple also got in on some net action, going 8 for 10 in attacks, with two kills. With Libby Faga out for this match, as well as the Union match, Molly Fink and Kelsey Polaski picked up the slack with 12 and 14 assists, respectively. Jennifer Demiter managed 14 digs.

The Norse faced Union in the semifinals of championship play, and Anna and Lauren Himan led the attack zone with 11 for 15 and 13 for 14 performances, respectively. Anna had nine kills, while Lauren slammed down six. Molly Fink issued 12 assists.

"I was glad to see the fight (in the girls) at the end of the day," commented Geise. "Sometimes you get knocked down or don’t play the way you know you can. But you have to dust yourself off, get back up and continue to believe in yourself and your team. We will learn from these losses and be a better team because of them."

The Norsemen’s record now stands at 8-3. The Norse will hopefully now regroup and move forward this week, having to heal some unfortunate injuries and illnesses. R-S was less than 100 percent staffed last week, as Alexa Whipple sprained an ankle against Nevada, and was used rather sparingly at East Marshall. Erin Nuetzman also went down with a knee injury on Saturday, and Libby Faga missed most of the last two matches in the tournament due to illness.