MARSHALL - The Marshall Tiger volleyball team continued its opening season charge through opponents nicknamed the Cardinals with a lopsided sweep of Fairmont on Tuesday night.
Already with wins over Class AAA Alexandria and Class A's top-ranked team of Bethlehem Academy, the Tigers improved to 3-0 on the year topping the Cardinals, 25-1, 25-0, 25-5.
Marshall senior setter Sydney Griffin served the entire second set and finished her night 43-for-43 with 14 aces. Eight of those occurred in Set 2 as Marshall's consistently strong serving coupled with Fairmont's first outing of the season to create the one-sided result.
"I think it was a case of it being (Fairmont's) first match. They had a scheduled match last week that ended up getting cancelled and I think them coming in having not played a match worked to our advantage," Marshall head coach Dan Westby said. "But we served tough and they struggled passing at times. As a result that made life difficult."
The Cardinals had originally planned on opening their season at home against Martin County West on Aug. 26, but the late summer heat wave postponed the match until Sept. 16. As a result, Fairmont was left with the unenviable task of starting its season on the road at the two-time defending Class AA state champion and current No. 1-ranked Tigers.
"It was kind of a bummer. We were supposed to have a match last week that got postponed," Fairmont head coach Brad Haugen said. "So knowing you're coming up and seeing that (Bethlehem Academy) was only able to put up 10 points in their first game against Marshall, I just kind of said, 'Girls, we're in for a bearcat of a test on Tuesday.' It was as advertised."
Marshall opened up the night on an 18-0 run behind four ace serves from Stephanie Baker. Baker went 20 of 20 with four aces from the service line in the match.
The opening streak for the Tigers was broken up by Fairmont's Madison Geerdes, who found the floor with a kill.
A service error gave the ball back to Marshall, however, as the Tigers rallied off 32 consecutive points with Griffin serving.
Fairmont jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Set 3 behind a kill from Kersten Shantz and a net violation on the Tigers. Marshall rallied to tie the match at 2-2, but a service error returned the lead to the Cardinals. Marshall rolled off seven straight points when regaining the lead, backed by three straight ace serves by Marah Mulso.
The Tigers and Cardinals traded points until Marshall led 10-5 when Griffin rotated back to the service line. Marshall finished the match with a 15-0 run.
Griffin added 18 set assists to the Tiger victory, while Kenzie Beekman led with 10 kills. Hannah Bennett added a team-high 17 digs for the Tigers and Callie Graff led all participants with three blocks. Graff also added six kills for the Tigers.
"I think Callie really has improved and really has come on as a player," Westby said. "It was good to see the last couple of matches, she's been asking for the ball and it's been good to see her want to get more involved."
By way of the big win the Tigers also got to see a few new faces take the floor, as Jackie Petrich and Morgan Saugstad saw their first varsity action of the season and chipped in with a pair of kills each.
"Those guys both come to the gym everyday and work hard and I thought that carried over into the match tonight," Westby said. "They're both very skilled and they did some good things tonight."
Despite holding large leads in each set, the Tigers maintained their edge on the floor. Westby said that had a lot to do with maintaining the communication between the players on the floor and the substitutes entering the game.
Likewise, despite the Cardinals trailing significantly for nearly the entire night, Fairmont maintained a high-level of energy during the contest.
"I was very excited about our bench. When you're out on the court and you're getting beat 16-1 and 16-0, things just aren't going well," Haugen said. "But the girls on our bench and our managers and everybody, they were cheering. Anytime they went after a ball there was excitement and that support keeps you going. Easily we could have had chins in the chest and everybody being down on themselves. There are only a couple girls that we had to talk to about that, but overall the attitude was positive. The girls just kept lifting each other up and telling them to get that next ball."
Fairmont will look to bring that same level of enthusiasm to its next contest when the Cardinals (0-1) open up South Central Conference play with a road test against New Ulm on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Marshall has one more Cardinal on its opening season slate; the Tigers (3-0 overall) host Southwest Conference foe Luverne the same night.