Nick’s Notes: October Nights
November 4, 2014
Under most other circumstances, I probably would have forgotten about Oct. 16.
However, with both the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers and the Marshall Tigers volleyball teams making the trip to St. Paul for the state volleyball tournament, that night continues to stick out in my mind. That was the night the Panthers defeated the Tigers in five sets in Tracy.
On paper, Marshall should have won. The Tigers had beaten the Panthers three years in a row without dropping a set.
Class AA teams like Marshall usually beat smaller-school Class A teams like TMB. A friend of mine gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look when I asked about TMB's chances in the match.
However, that week was different.
Marshall defeated St. Peter for the Big South championship on that Tuesday.
Even though they won, it wasn't an inspired performance. The Saints went on more runs than they should have. Also, it seemed at times that the St.Peter B and C teams were cheering louder than the rest of the crowd.
TMB was coming off of two emotional wins.
They got revenge over Minneota in a game that featured a raucous home crowd. They also won their first Camden Conference Championship in a long time by defeating Central Minnesota Christian on the road. Coach Katie Gervais told me that both of those victories were confidence builders.
I thought that if both teams had played like they did earlier in the week, TMB would win in five sets. That's exactly what happened.
You may disagree, but it was the best thing to happen to both teams.
TMB solidified its identity as a scrappy underdog. Those girls didn't have to prove anything. They'd already played some impressive volleyball to finish out the season.
However, they had nothing to lose and that's when you find out the most about a team.
The Panthers played their game. They battled back in sets. They weren't intimidated. They let their emotion fly.
Those are the qualities fuel long postseason runs. I'd fear any team that knows its identity. So, just keep scrapping, Panthers.
Marshall had a rallying event. Rallying events remind you of your mission and clarify what you need to do to accomplish it. Yes, they did have the three straight state championships to rally around, but those were won by other teams. They weren't won by this squad
Dan Westby said that this team has been under more pressure than any team he had seen in a while. Understandably so. I tip my hat to Westby for getting his team to keep the focus on the court.
To their credit, the Tigers have responded well. They have played some of the best volleyball I've seen them play all season. Their win against Jackson County Central was an emotional one. The girls shut out the crowd noise, the pep band, and they just focused on playing.
Mallory Griffin told me after the match that she just focused on getting the ball in the court as she served. She did that and more, helping lead the Tigers back from 8-5 deficit to help win the game.
The Tigers shouldn't worry about a legacy or a streak, just focus on getting the ball in the court. That's what they're good at. Be ruthless and go all in.
Good luck to both the Tigers and Panthers. It's going to be fun.