Tartan pushed before outlasting Polars in volleyball

Since the inception of volleyball as an interscholastic sport for girls back in the early 70s, the North Polars have only been successful against their School District 622 rivals Tartan on just three occasions.

Sept. 15, the Polars ventured to Titanville to test the Titans one more time. The teams entered the match with identical records of 4-0 in Classic Suburban Conference action. The lead for the conference crown was up for grabs.

In the end, Tartan increased their edge over North with a 3-0 victory, but the score doesn’t tell the story of the North determination - particularly in game three - and their quest for the elusive triumph.

In front of enthusiastic partisans from the rival schools, the Titans bounced to a 2-0 lead in the match on the strength of 25-7 and 25-12 game victories.

But game three had fans on either end of the Tartan gymnasium standing and cheering on their favorites throughout much of the match.

In the end, the Titans were able to hold on, but only after the Polars put up a vigorous effort that carried the game past the regulation 25 points.

North actually led and at 24-22, had gained the serve; they were serving for the win.

It was not to be. Tartan came back, took the lead 25-24 - their first in the game since it was knotted at 20 - and were finally able to close out the Polars by a 27-25 count. That gave the Titans the match at 3-0.

“In that third game, when we had to play from behind, it shows that our team has good character,” Tartan co-head coach Laura Klingsporn said. “They didn’t quit. That’s what happens when you have a senior-dominated team with experience. I was really pleased with that.”

From the North perspective, first year coach Alyssa Larson was encouraged by the effort put forth by her charges in game three.

“We got behind in those first two games and never recovered,” she said. “We had made some lineup adjustments to better match up some players. Our kids just weren’t blocking well.

“In game three, we went back to our original lineup and the kids responded well. They played hard and we had a great game. I’m happy with game three. That gave us confidence. Now we know we can play against the best. We’ll come back and we’ll be stronger as a result of that game. We’ll be more ready next time we play them.”

“We took advantage of them in the first two games,” Klingsporn continued. But they stepped it up in game three and played tough defense. They forced us into some mistakes. But our experience paid off. Our kids didn’t quit and we came back to win.”

The Titans set the tone early in game one. Nikki Klingsporn led off serving and the first point was gained when co-captain (along with Klingsporn) Erica Jost blocked a shot for the first point. Klingsporn then served three straight aces (she ended the contest with nine) to push the Tartan lead to 4-0.

The teams exchanged serves before Jost went to the service line. Suddenly the score moved to 16-4.

At 21-7, Sallie Kyle went to the line and served out the game as the Tartan defense, along with their potent offense, overwhelmed the Polars.

Game two was more of the same. The Titans got the ball on a Polars mis-hit. Klingsporn went to the line and served four straight aces.

(In the game, Klingsporn - the Titans floor leader - ended with nine service aces, eight kills, six blocks and 15 assists.)

The Titans quickly bounced to a 9-1 margin. They increased it to 13-3, before the Polars gained some momentum. North then played the Titans almost even as they finished the game with a 9-12 point disadvantage.

Tartan went on to claim game two by a 25-12 count and set the stage for the game three finale.

The Polars made some adjustments to their rotation and began game three by gaining their first lead of the match. Early on, North Jumped to a 6-1 lead and saw the Titans fight back to knot the count at eight.

The score kept the fans on their feet cheering. It was tied at eight, at nine and again at 10.

Tartan pushed to a 13-10 lead and just when it appeared they would again surge, the North defense came on strong. The Titans would go up by two or three points and North would come back.

At 18-14 Titans, North, with Lauren Brin setting (she ended with nine assists) and Kyley Crotty leading the attack with kills, came back to level the score once more at 18.

The Titans picked up a couple of more points before a mis-hit into the net. North’s Anna Schultz went to the line. Brin set and Gina Derosa banged home a couple of kills. She picked up another point on a super block as North moved to within a couple of points of closing out the game at 23-20.

With the crowd worked into a frenzy pitch, Jacki Goetzke set and Jost slammed a huge shot to the North floor.

The Titans picked up another point on a North hit into the net and were down by one.

The Polars then moved to within one of a game victory at 24-22 when the Titans mis-hit the ball.

But North returned the favor with two unforced errors and suddenly the count was level at 24.

Klingsporn was at the line and served an ace to move the Titans into the lead at 25-24.

It appeared the Titans got the next point on a net violation. But there was a call by each of the two officials. A short conference ensued before it was ruled that both sides were in violation. The point was disallowed and replayed.

Klingsporn served again for the game and match but a good dig was followed by a Brin set. Crotty went high and hammered the ball to the Tartan floor to even the score at 25.

Then the Tartan captains Klingsporn and Jost took charge. Klingsporn set and Jost killed, to again move the Titans to within one at 26-25.

Kendra Hobbs served, the Polars returned, but a pass from Shawna Huset found Klingsporn. The Tartan floor general set perfectly and Jost went up and left no doubt as she hammered the orb to the North floor for the point that gave Tartan the game and match.

The win pushed Tartan to 9-0 overall and to 5-0 in the CSC. The loss dropped North to 4-1, both overall and in the CSC. The Polars are tied with Mahtomedi for the number two spot in the conference.

Huset, who had 10 digs, drew praise from coach Klingsporn.

“Her passes were right there, Klingsporn said. “She doesn’t get the credit she deserves, but because of her good passing, Nikki (Klingsporn) can set the ball for Erica (Jost) to kill.”

Huset pushed her season total digs to a team-leading 71.

Jost ended the contest with 15 kills, five blocks and added 10 digs. She pushed her season totals to 84 kills, 17 blocks and 63 digs.

Klingsporn moved her season totals to 54 kills, 133 assists and 58 service aces.

The teams will resume conference action when North will travel to meet Hill-Murray, Sept. 27, before returning to the Hal Norgard Gym to host Simley, Sept. 29, and Tartan, Oct. 4.

Tartan will play host to Simley Sept. 22. They will then travel to participate in the Apple Valley Invitational, Sept. 23-24, and stay on the road to meet Simley Sept. 27. The Titans will take on South St. Paul at Tartan Sept. 29 before they travel to meet the Polars at North, Oct. 4.

Games (other than tournaments) are 7 p.m. scheduled starts.

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