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Chris Murphy, Published November 02 2013

Fergus Falls volleyball headed to state for first time ever

HAWLEY, Minn. – It felt like Fergus Falls middle hitter Anna Monke was in the air for eternity before she smashed her 20th kill of the night Saturday in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 volleyball championship game at Hawley High School.

When she finally came down to the floor, she had to jump right back up because her kill gave the Otters a 25-13, 25-19, 25-21 sweep over defending section champion Thief River Falls and something they had been waiting for what felt like eternity for: Their first-ever trip to the volleyball state tournament.

Monke seemed to jump just a few inches higher and hit just a bit harder Saturday night. Two years of losing in the section championship will do that to a senior.

“As a senior class, we came together and said we don’t want that to happen again,” Monke said. “It was worth the wait. If it was any year, I was so glad it was this year with these girls.”

Monke wasn’t the only Otters player to have taken that slow walk to accept the second-place section plaque the last two seasons. Brianna Rasmusson remembers the reluctant smiles for pictures with the runner-up plaque that come with the wonder of when will it be their time.

On Saturday it was their time as Rasmusson – a North Dakota State commit – had 11 kills, three blocks, two aces and 30 assists to make sure her senior year wasn’t ending with the all-too-familiar feeling the Otters have felt in the section title game.

“We’ve been in this place a lot, and we came up short, so we really wanted to go in there and give it all we got,” Rasmusson said. “We came out excited and full of energy. To have come that close and not make it all those years has made us work way harder and never take anything for granted.”

Fergus Falls left no doubt. After Thief River Falls’ 6-5 lead in the first set, the Prowlers wouldn’t lead again. It may have been two years of heartbreak for most of the players on the Otters squad, but coach Renee Erickson has seen 15 stateless years at the helm of the Otters.

“It feels great for these kids,” Erickson said. “They’ve worked so hard and practiced with a goal in mind. We looked like we were goal-oriented tonight. I think the kids were really focused and ready to go. It was definitely worth the wait.”

After trailing 6-5 in Set 1, Fergus Falls (25-6) answered with a 7-0 run to take control and never let go.

The Otters came out firing in Set 2, opening the set with a 9-1 run, eventually leading 19-12. Thief River Falls (26-5-2) made it interesting, cutting the lead to 20-17, but the Prowlers would get no closer.

The Otters opened Set 3 with a 6-1 run, but the Prowlers stuck with them with ties at 14 and 20 before Kristin Traiser picked up one of her six kills, Ashley Reinertson picked up an ace and Rasmusson slammed a kill to set up Monke’s closing shot. Erickson had no doubt who was getting the final ball and what the result would be.

“I knew we were going to the middle and I knew it was going to be a big swing,” Erickson said. “I knew (Monke) was going to go up with power because that’s the way she plays and that’s how she played all night. It was very fitting to finish that way.”

Fergus Falls will play Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center. Seeds will be announced at noon today.

F (kills-blocks-aces): Rasmusson 11-3-2 (30 assists), Harworth 0-0-1, Reinertson 1-0-1, Gaustad 9-2-0 (18 digs), Traiser 6-2-0, Monke 20-2-0, Boese 0-1-0, Smith 0-0-0 (28 digs).

T: Yaggie 8-1-0, Biermaier 11-1-1, Bergland 4-1-0, Amirayan 9-1-0, Brekke 1-1-0, Norlin 0-0-0 (32 assists), Kraemer 0-2-0 (11 digs).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548