The No. 8-seeded Chaska Hawks had entered the Tuesday, Oct. 29, Section 2AAA semifinal volleyball match with No. 4-seeded Eden Prairie after having pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Section 2AAA history.
A week ago Friday, the Hawks traveled to Shakopee and thumped (3-1) the No. 1-seeded/No. 5-ranked Sabers.
On Tuesday, they set their sights on Eden Prairie.
While opening the match with a 10-3 first-set lead, Chaska carried the look of invincibility.
But Eden Prairie called timeout and rallied its way to a 25-17 first-set victory.
“We caught them in a couple rotations where they couldn’t score,” explained Eden Prairie coach Chad Becker.
Credit Emma O’Connell and a serve that flipped a 10-3 deficit into a 14-10 lead.
“We put an emphasis on serving at the start of the postseason,” said Becker. “An aggressive serve can get the other team out of system.
“You’ll make a few errors along the way,” he added, “but it’s worth it. When a team is in system, they typically have a high execution rate.”
Expect this serve philosophy to continue next season.
After falling in the first set, Chaska answered right back with a convincing 25-14 second-set win.
The Hawks then won the third set 25-18.
Eden Prairie could either fight back or bow out.
The Eagles chose to fight.
Another hot streak – Eden Prairie scored seven straight points after trailing 14-12 – pushed the Eagles to a 25-19 fourth-set win.
Mallorey Madson’s strong serve played a staring role.
Momentum had changed, or had it?
Eden Prairie opened the deciding fifth set by winning three straight points.
A fourth point was there for the taking but Eden Prairie missed out.
“A 4-0 lead makes them call a timeout,” said Becker, “and who knows what happens next?”
Down 3-0, Chaska answered with six consecutive points to take a 6-3 lead.
After building 9-6 and 11-9 leads, Chaska closed out Eden Prairie 15-11.
The loss ended Eden Prairie’s season as well as the high school volleyball careers of seniors Katy Kraemer, Izzy Thorne, Emma Martinson, Abby Horn, Emma O’Connell and Allison Riester.
Eden Prairie finished its season with an 18-11 overall record.
“Eight of the nine schools we lost to played in a section final,” said Becker. “The only one who didn’t was Shakopee and they were a No. 1 seed.”
Chaska upset No. 5-ranked Shakopee in the second round.
When asked about next year, Becker talked about this year.
“Depth at practice was a major reason why were so successful,” said the coach.
“We’ll miss our seniors,” said Becker, “but return some pretty big pieces, including our middles. We bring back some young talent, including a couple ninth graders, but they’re going to have to step up.”
Learning an aggressive serve goes without saying.