Mustangs bumped off by Plainsmen
East Marshall falls in opener to Belle Plaine
LE GRAND — East Marshall kicked off its fall sports schedule on Tuesday when the Mustangs volleyball squad hosted Class 2A No. 15 Belle Plaine, and though they dropped their season opener new head coach Terri Westendorf said her girls showed a lot of improvement in the areas they have been working on early in practice.
“Honestly when we first started, one of our key initiatives was to work on our passing and our serve receive and I feel like the girls have definitely improved every day that we’ve been working out,” Westendorf said after the game. “I felt like they were getting the ball up and not letting a bunch fall. This weekend we went to a scrimmage and had quite a few balls fall in front of us so we took care of that situation.”
The Plainsmen took the first two sets 25-20 and 25-14, putting East Marshall on the brink of elimination, but in the third set the Mustangs roared out to take their first lead of the match and ultimately forced a fourth frame with a gritty 28-26 victory.
Westendorf said most times her team steps on the court, they will be outsized by their opponents, so it will take a performance like they had in the third to pull out some wins.
“We started to see that little bit of scrappiness that we have been working on and talking about. When they taste it they are going to know what it feels like,” she said. “That was definitely a plus, we were matching them hit for hit in that one, we were attacking the ball aggressively and intelligently and I think that is a key. We are never going to be bigger than the other team, so we are going to have to hit intelligently.”
Junior Juliana Arifi was a key in that third set, knocking down three kills for East Marshall and helping the Mustang live to fight for another set. Westendorf said Arifi is a big part of what her team is trying to do early on in the season and she will continue to develop as the team does.
“Juliana will get better as the rest of her team gets better as well because we are going to take a little heat off of her,” Westendorf said. “She definitely was our leader and she put the ball down with some authority, which you have to have. It was extremely positive having her out there swinging hard and showing what it’s supposed to look like.”
Outside of Arifi, quite a few other girls got it done on the offensive end throughout the night like seniors McKenzie Hinegardner, Cloe Kelling and McKayli
“We have to have some other girls contributing, Juliana can’t do it all, nor do I think she wants to. She understands that the more the other girls around her play the better we all get,” Westendorf said. “I really hope that the team can grab that energy and understand that as the other girl next to you gets better, you get better. We are hoping to bring each other forward as we go through.”
While there were some good things to take away from the match, ultimately the Plainsmen did finish out with a 25-13 win in the fourth set. Now that they have a game under their belt against a tough opponent like Belle Plaine, Westendorf said the team will take some time to figure out what they can improve upon before they face off against their next foe.
“We try not to get too emotionally attached to the stats, we look at them factually and understand why they are what they are,” she said. “That is what we are going to do the next couple practices, look at the stats and be very factual and understand why that is and how we fix it. We know that sometimes you just go up and it doesn’t go right, but if we get our feet where they are supposed to be and get our body where it’s supposed to be on the ball, we will put the ball over a lot better.”