Academy of Holy Angels celebrate their second straight Section 4AA championship. The Stars defeated the Pioneers in four sets on Thursday night to earn their third State Tournament trip in school history. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine
Unranked in the Class 2A coaches' poll all season, Holy Angels remained unfazed by the lack of recognition. Unshaken in its collective self-confidence, the Stars are headed back to the state tournament.
Holy Angels knocked off Hill-Murray 25-23, 25-16, 20-25, 25-14 Thursday night at Bloomington Kennedy, turning in another strong performance that pushed aside the Pioneers in Class 2A, Section 4 final for the second year in a row.
“We’re going back, and that’s the cool thing about it,” Holy Angels coach Tom Emanuel said. “All season, we’ve walked into the gym with this swagger. Last year, we were a cute little story...what’s Holy Angels doing here?
“This year, that’s not the case, everyone knows we can play, and we’ve been getting opponent’s best effort every night.”
That effort was on display for the better part of four sets against Hill-Murray, which struggled to transition into its offense against constant and steady pressure.
Holy Angels was led by a big effort up front from hitters Ellie Koontz and Lauren Link, who combined for 29 kills. Koontz finished with a game-high 16 kills and Link added 14, as well as a pair of ace blocks.
Despite a 25-3 record, the Stars never graced the top 10 in the Class 2A rankings, and it served to light a fire under Holy Angels, which entered the season committed to prove they are not a fluke. In the section final, the Stars rolled over the No. 6-2A ranked Pioneers (19-4), who lacked the poise to weather the pressure Holy Angels was dealing in.
“I think it motivated our team to work harder, and push even more,” Koontz said. “Everybody wants to see their team ranked and listed with the best teams on the Volleyball Hub. But not seeing it drove us even more.”
After storming through the first two sets and finding a lull in the third, Holy Angels pulled away in the third, and finished the match as hotly as it had started.
“We had a plan, we prepared well and we’ve got mentally strong players who have skill, and we did it as a team,” Emanuel said. “That’s what I really proud of.”
Koontz and Link helped solidify a challenging front line, but elsewhere six different servers dealt up at least one ace, as Holy Angels began clicking all the way around.
“Our game plan was to play our game, the way we play it, and to not let the other side of the net effect us,” Koontz said. “Our defense is very aggressive, and we try not to let any ball drop...we want to compete for every ball.”
Hill Murray's Lauren Hinrichs dives for the save in the third set. Hinrichs led the Pioneers with ten kills in their four set loss to the Stars. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine
Holy Angels knocked off Hill-Murray in four sets Thursday night in Bloomington to seize the Class 2A, Section 4 title for the second straight year.
The Stars took the match by scores of 25-23, 25-16, 20-25 and 25-14.
Holy Angels (25-3) was led by a big effort up front from hitters Ellie Koontz and Lauren Link, who combined for 29 kills on the night. Koontz finished with a game-high 16 kills, and Link added 14, as well as a pair of ace blocks.
Hill-Murray, ranked No. 6-2A by the latest state coaches' poll, finishes the season with a 19-4 mark. The Pioneers were led offensively by senior outside hitter Claire Westby’s 10 kills.
Holy Angels will head to the state tournament for the third time in school history.
The MN Volleyball Hub polls are for entertainment purposes only.
Ellie Koontz makes one of her 15 kills on this push of the ball. Koontz combined with Lauren Link for 29 kills in the Stars win on Thursday night. Photo by Cheryl Myers, SportsEngine