Section 6A coach of the year Kristy Finck of Henning squared off with volleyball coaching legend Sue Volkmann of Wadena-Deer Creek in a strategic chess match on court for a state berth Saturday night in Perham.
Finck’s Hornets left with a 3-1 (25-11, 21-25, 25-19, 25-20) victory over the Wolverines in a dominating team performance to clinch Henning’s first-ever state appearance in volleyball.
“If we can pass we can do almost anything because we have weapons at every position,” said Finck.
Wadena Deer-Creek’s star senior Kennedy Gravelle ended a long first point of the match with a kill running around her setter to the outside and slamming the ball cross court for the lead but after the next point the opening set was all Henning in a 25-11 rout.
“We had one plan; we needed to be offensively in control of the game,” said Finck.
The Hornets were that and more taking a 1-0 lead in the match ending the set on a 7-0 scoring run.
The second set was much closer with the two teams tying 15 times to a deadlock at 20 points each.
Wolverine senior Courtny Warren broke the tie with an ace serve and a pair of Henning hitting errors allowed Wadena-Deer Creek to take control late in the set to even the match 25-21.
The Wolverine’s offense centered around Gravelle who shouldered much of the attack and coming off a semifinals victory where they lost the first set Volkmann’s team seemed right where they wanted to be with newfound momentum.
“Our second plan was to block Kennedy as much as we could,” said Finck. “We had to be in control of the game.”
Henning took command of the third set jumping out to a 9-4 lead and forcing a timeout from Volkmann.
After the break, the Hornets continued to build on the advantage leading by as many as nine points at 22-13. The Wolverines fought back with a 4-1 run highlighted by a big block from sophomore Lauryn Gravelle to cut the lead to 23-17.
Henning came through in crunch time by splitting four points for a 25-19 win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
Both teams wrestled for control in set four.
Junior Katelyn Gardner gave the Wolverines an early 7-3 lead with a kill.
Seniors Serena Greenwood and Sydney Eckhoff responded with a kill down the line and a block, respectively to erase the W-DC lead
The teams tied at 8-8, 16-all and a final tie at 18 points each.
From there, Henning’s senior leadership and composure won out as the Hornets finished the match on a 7-2 run to clinch the fourth set 25-20 and the match.
Henning made state-wide news with the run of the boys basketball team to a state title last season and the lasting effects of that championship have possibly created a championship vibe running through the Hornets' school halls.
"Maybe, I hope so," said Finck.
The Henning volleyball team also heads to the state tournament with a seasoned group accustomed to their coach.
"We have six seniors on our court and they’ve all played at least three or four years for me," Finck said. "I think they have the drive and the ownership and our underclassmen are phenomenal athletes too. They blend so well as a team; the unity of my group is amazing.”
Wadena-Deer Creek’s season ends with a record of 19-8.
The Hornets (24-7) will open Class A tournament play at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul beginning Thursday, Nov. 7. The top four teams are seeded and the bottom four are selected by random draw.