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Owls lose Section title to Ada-Borup

Lauren Nelson tips the ball while teammates Courtney Greiner and Kendra Schmidgall prepare for the return against Underwood.1 / 6
Kendra Schmidgall slams down one of her "killer" kills in the game with Underwood for the sub-section title.2 / 6
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One-step from State. The Hancock Owls volleyball team took the Section 6A South Sub-section championship last Thursday night and were just one step from a trip to state. They then faced Ada-Borup on Saturday night and lost 3-1. With their sub-section championship trophy is the 2010 team: In front (L-R) Lexi Steege, Sami Schmidgall, Karol Algarate, Lauren Nelson and Tara Flaten. In back - Bridget Joos, Kirstin Thiel, Shae Brown, Illissa Koehl, Ali Reese, Aria Walstad, Kendra Schmidgall, Courtney Greiner,...6 / 6

The Hancock Owls volleyball team came within a match of earning its first trip to the Minnesota State Tournament.

The Owls advanced to the 6A Section finals but fell to Ada-Borup in four games Saturday at Hillcrest Lutheran in Fergus Falls.

The Owls won game one 25-23 but then dropped three straight, 21-25, 18-25, 18-25 and finished with a 28-2 overall record.

"We knew that they had one big hitter and served aggressive and played great defense so we needed to get the ball in our hitters hands as much as possible and try to break down their defense," Owls coach Kristi Fehr said.

Game one was close throughout, with each sides hitters pounding the ball down and each side's defense showing some nice hustle. Courtney Greiner's kill nailed down game one for the Owls.

In game two, Hancock had the Cougars down 8-3 before surrendering a seven-point serving streak to the Cougars.

"The set stayed close but we made some mental mistakes and lost some focus struggling with our passing and serving and the Cougars took advantage of this," Fehr said of the Cougars' 25-21 win.

Hancock's struggles continued in the third game. The Cougars' served aggressively and Owls passers struggling to get the ball up.

"We had to fight for every point and were just not able to get our offense going," Fehr said. "Our passing troubles continued into set four and again we were just unable to get the ball to our hitters to get any momentum from our offense."

The Owls' momentum was gone and Ada-Borup wrapped up the match and secured a state tournament berth with a 25-18 win in game four.

"Although this was not the way we wanted the season to end, the girls played with a ton of heart and kept fighting even when things were not going our way," Fehr said.

Kendra Schmidgall led with 25 kills followed by Courtney Greiner with 12. Aria Walstad had 45 set assists along with 5 kills. Lauren Nelson had 6 kills along with 13 digs. Ali Reese had 13 digs and was 12/13 serving. Shae Brown had 7 digs and was 8/10 serving, Illissa Koehl was 9/9 serving with 2 aces and had 9 digs. Abby Ascheman had 4 kills and a season high 8 digs.

The Owls earned their spot in the section finals with a victory over Underwood on Thursday night in the Section 6AA South Sub-Section final.

"The team knew going into this match that they had some good blockers and some powerful hitters. The Owls came out in set one and did everything right, serving and passing well and their hitters were able to pound the ball down," Fehr said of Hancock's 25-14 win in game one.

The Rockets picked up their game from there on out not making anything else easy for the Owls. Set two went back and forth and the Owls trailed 24-20 when Hancock's Lauren Nelson stepped to the serving line and the Owls scored six straight points to win set two 26-24.

The Owls struggled with their focus and passing in set three falling behind 16-7 at one time but they kept fighting back and inched their way back into the set before losing 25-22.

The Owls jumped to a 19-14 lead in the fourth game before the Rockets rebounded.

"There were many set point opportunities for both teams and a few times that the Owls played a little tentative," Fehr said.

Koehl stepped to the serving line with the score 31-30 and served the ball over, the Owls were able to dig up a Rocket hit and Schmidgall ended the match with an ace kill.

"This was a great match that showed a lot of heart and the will to never give up," Fehr said. "We were behind in some of these sets and the girls just kept fighting for every point and believing that they could win. It was a great team effort and I was extremely proud of all of these girls."

Schmidgall led with a career-high 36 kills and 20 digs along with four ace blocks. Greiner had 10 kills, one ace block and six digs. Aria Walstad was 24/25 serving with five ace serves along with 44 set assists. Ali Reese was 14/14 serving with one ace and had a season high 29 digs. Nelson had eight kills and two ace blocks along with 20 digs. Abby Ascheman played a nice match at the net having one kill, three set assists, and three digs. Shae Brown was perfect from the serving line going 18/18 with three ace serves and also having 11 digs. Koehl again made a very important serve to end the match going 13/14 serving and also having 16 digs for the match. This brings us to the section finals match against top rated Ada-Borup Cougars from the north.

"This was a great group of girls and I am honored to have been able to coach them," Fehr said. "I'm not sure how many people would have thought that they would get this far at the beginning of the year but we had great leadership and everyone took their role and showed huge strides in improvement throughout the year."

The Owls' accomplishments that were made throughout the year included beating Benson for first place at the Minnewaska Tourney, beating Morris to get to the championship match at Hancock's tourney and taking first place, having a regular season record of 25-1.

Other highlights included Walstad surpassed more than 1,000 set assists, Schmidgall going over 1,000 kills, winning the sub-section and, finally, placing second in sections.

"I want to thank the fans, pep band, Mr. Steege, Judy Johnson, Joyce and Katie at the Record and parents for everything you have done this year," Fehr said.

"Parents, thank you for all of the meals prepared during the season and at play-offs and for all of your support throughout the year," Fehr said. "Most of all I would like to thank this great group of girls. They have made this a very memorable year not just because of what we accomplished but for being great people. We were able to laugh, cry, show respect towards each other and have fun along the way- Thank you girls for a great season!"