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Pioneers parade past Packers in section opener
Many people are still puzzling why the Hill-Murray Pioneers - winners of their fourth straight Classic Suburban Conference volleyball title - were seeded fifth in the Section 4AAA play.
On Oct. 23 the South St. Paul Packers came to Hill-Murray High School, and one of the first things South St. Paul head coach Jane Cornell talked about was the disconnect between the Pioneers and where they were ranked in the playoffs.
Cornell commented, "I don't understand why they were ranked so low.
"But, if we had to play someone, I'm glad it was Hill-Murray. I have a lot of respect for Tim (Walen, Hill-Murray head coach) and the program he has at Hill-Murray.
As far as the game was concerned, Cornell was not too surprised or unpleased with the results.
Hill-Murray ended the 12th-seeded Packers' season in three games.
"I thought we played hard. We probably committed too many unforced errors, and that isn't a good thing against a good team like Hill-Murray," offered Cornell.
"But we talked about it before the game, and we came to fight. We played with a lot of heart and had a lot of good rallies. We came to fight, and I think we did that."
From the Hill-Murray point of view, when asked about the seedings, Walen shook his head. "I, too, am not sure why it is. But then, it is what it is.
"One good thing is that we got an extra game in, and we will have to go on from here. Hopefully, we will be able to show the teams that are waiting, what a mistake (our low ranking) was.
"As far as tonight is concerned, it was a nice way for our seniors to end their last game of the year here," Walen said.
"Also we got a lot of players in the game. They saw extended action and that will help down the line when they are next needed."
The four teams above the Pioneers in Section 4AAA were: (1st) Cretin-Derham Hall is 21-4; (2nd) North is 20-6; (3rd) Woodbury has six losses and (4th) Roseville is 21-5 on the year.
High intensity high right to final whistle
In game one of the match against South St. Paul, Hill-Murray jumped off to a 6-0 start. Shannon Little - a senior tri captain - led off serving and provided two ace serves.
The game stabilized for a bit, until at 12-9, Little again went to the line. Again she served a couple of aces and along with some stubborn Hill-Murray defense, the score mounted to 19-9.
As hard a fight as the Packers put up, the Pioneers were equal to the task and closed out game one by a score of 25-12.
As the teams regrouped for game two, it got off to a rather slow Hill-Murray start.
The score was leveled four times until at 6-6, the Pioneers' defense again proved to be the difference.
Suddenly, the Hill-Murray subs went on a 12-3 run and then closed out the Packers by an identical count of 25-12.
Game three was similar in that the Packers were even with Hill-Murray until at 7-7. That's when the Pioneers pounced on the Packers, outscoring them on a 12-4 run.
Down the stretch the Packers committed several unforced errors. They had 11 in game three and overall in the match they committed 23.
But despite the mistakes, the Packers kept their team intensity until the final whistle sounded on a score of 25-15.
The win helped Hill-Murray push its overall season record to 22-5.