Nov. 14—ST. PAUL — The battle would be decidedly uphill for the Kasson-Mantorville volleyball team. The KoMets knew that.
But that didn't stop them from putting up one heck of a fight Saturday night against the No. 1 ranked team in Class AAA, Marshall.
No. 2 K-M lost the championship match at Xcel Energy Center, dropped in a sweep. But the final 27-25, 25-22, 25-16 score didn't tell nearly the entire story
Guaranteed, despite their loss, the KoMets headed home feeling like anything but losers. They'd fought way too hard and well for that. And they knew what they'd just dealt with — a Marshall team that had No. 1 written all over it, with its decided size advantage and overall skill.
But a No. 2 finish in the state tournament and a spot in the championship match for just the second time in school history, certainly K-M will take all of that.
"I was proud of the way we came out and played," K-M All-State senior setter Maddie Converse said. "Marshall is a tough team, and it's tough to stick with them. But we gave it our all and we never stopped playing. It was super fun. It was a great way to go out"
Not bad from a team that had so little expectations for itself this summer.
The KoMets graduated seven players from last year's team, then struggled to get things together in June and July. Still, they stuck with things and gradually shaped into a team that finished a spectacular 30-4 and second in the state.
"We weren't going to be good; we weren't supposed to be good at all," K-M coach Adam VanOort said of his summertime thoughts about his KoMets. "But for these guys to work as hard as they did at learning and making change. . .We say it all the time that anyone can sweat, but it takes a lot of hard work to get better at volleyball. In the end, they exceeded my expectations in every way."
There is also this K-M angle about what happened in this championship match: It made 33-2 Marshall blink.
The KoMets did it by just missing in Set 1 after having built a head-turning 21-15 lead, only to see the Tigers erupt at the net in the late going and rally to win 27-25. VanOort also blamed it on his team tensing up just a bit as it tried to close things out.
Hang on and win that set, and who knows. Then maybe the Tigers aren't celebrating their second straight state championship.
"Who knows what would have happened had we not come back and won that first set," Marshall coach Dan Westby said. "But you've got to give Kasson-Mantorville a lot of credit. They just play hard."
That is K-M's custom, and the KoMets didn't reserve it for the first set. They did it all night, drawing out one point after the other with their uncanny and fierce defense.
It was a mirror of the KoMets' season, which saw them fight for 30 wins against just four losses, doing it despite having no player taller than 5-foot-9 in its regular rotation.
K-M was up to its usual "dig-up-everything" ways against Marshall. Whittney Deno had 15, Aryssa McAdams 12 (also seven ace serves) and All-State libero Cate Wanous 12.
So many of them were of the dramatic variety, as the towering and athletic Tigers hitters kept blasting away. No matter, the KoMets never wilted, never lost their poise and never stopped diving for everything.
It's been the K-M way all season. The KoMets weren't about to stop in the championship match, no matter how long their odds were of winning.
This was a team that truly did leave everything on the floor, often literally, and walked away with no regrets.
"This was so much fun," K-M senior middle blocker Cassidy Thompson said of the match and her team's season. "For all of this to happen, it was just amazing."
Marshall 3, Kasson-Mantorville 0
Kasson-Mantorville: Aryss McAdams 12 digs, 7 aces; Cate Wanous 4 assists, 12 digs; Jaden Heidt 4 digs; Annika Larson 9 kills, 3 digs, 1 block; Maddie Converse 19 assists, 11 digs; Whittney Deno 7 kills, 15 digs, 1 ace; Cassidy Thompson 1 assist, 2 digs, 1 ace; Ella Babcock 1 kill; Abby Distad 3 assists; Ellie Ask 8 kills, 1 block; Sophia Sutton 2 kills.
Marshall: Cassie Hoover 2 assists, 14 digs, 1 ace; Caitlyn Christenson 2 assists, 17 digs; Maysa Gillingham 1 kill, 31 assists, 7 digs, 1 ace; Tessa Gannott 15 kills, 1 block; Brooke Andries 5 kills, 2 blocks; Leah Jones 8 kills, 10 digs, 1 block; Megan Wegner 11 digs; Taylor Ariasola 8 kills, 2 assists, 11 digs, 3 aces; Randi Wendorff 2 kills, 2 blocks.