By Chad Courrier
ST PETER — The first couple of attacks went to Hutchinson’s tall wall of Kayla Tronick and Mackenzie Piechowski. After that, Belle Plaine was playing catch up for most of the match.
“They’re tall, and they put up a big block,” Belle Plaine coach Rich Foust said. “We needed to cut the ball better and hit smarter. We were out of rhythm, we always seemed to be on our heels.”
Hutchinson had 37 kills and seven blocks to win the Section 2AA, North Subsection championship Thursday at Gustavus Adolphus’ Gus Young Court. Game scores were 25-18, 25-20, 25-19.
“They were huge,” Belle Plaine sophomore Abby Wolpern said. “There were some nerves. We just didn’t come together like we have.”
Tronick, a 6-foot-4 middle hitter, set the tone early for Hutchinson with two kills and a block, and when she wasn’t at the net, 6-0 Piechowski was just as effective.
Hutchinson built the lead to 14-8, and the lead stayed at four points or more the rest of way. Tronick and Piechowski each had four kills and two blocks as Hutchinson cruised to the 25-18 victory.
“We needed to serve more aggressively (in Game 2),” Foust said. “We put up the double block, and Abby was wonderful. But when she went to the back row, that’s when (Hutchinson) made its run.”
Wolpern took control of the net in Game 2, making three straight blocks as the lead was 5-0. Becky Koepp’s kill made it 8-1 before Hutchinson rallied, taking advantage of five attack errors, to pull within 10-9.
Hutchinson took the lead at 14-13, but Wolpern had a pair of kills that kept the score even at 17. However, Hutchinson finished with an 8-3 run, capped by a block from Tronick.
“We put up a better block, but they adjusted,” Wolpern said. “We just needed to pick up our intensity.”
Belle Plaine started fast in the final game, as Haley Fogarty had a pair of kills to go up 7-2. But again, Hutchinson rallied, pulling even at 9. The game was tied at 17 when Hutchinson reeled off eight straight points, with Piechowski making two kills and two blocks. The match ended on a mis-hit.
Wolpern ended up with 11 kills and four blocks, and Fogarty and Sam Johnson each had six kills. Katie Otto made 25 assists, and Johnson had 10 digs, one more than Fogarty.
Piechowski finished with nine kills and five blocks, and Tronick had nine kills and two blocks. Sara Carlson added seven kills.
Hutchinson plays in the section championship game against Le Sueur-Henderson of New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva at 7:45 p.m. Saturday at Gustavus.
Foust said that Belle Plaine, which has only two seniors, gained experience from making it to the subsection finals.
“When you get to this court and you win, it’s great,” he said. “But we’re a young team that can learn from this and hopefully be back here next year.”