Strasser on loss: ‘We were just playing not to lose, and they were playing to win’
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ROYAL CENTER — The Rochester volleyball team had a what-if moment against North Miami in a Class 2A, Sectional 36 quarterfinal at Pioneer Thursday, and it turned out to be their last what-if moment of the season.
What if Rochester, after facing deficits of 13-5 and 18-13 in the second set, had come back to win that set? Would they have won the match?
Instead, North Miami pulled out that set and went on to win 25-12, 26-24, 25-15 to improve to 11-21 and reach the semifinals.
North Miami will face Wabash, who received a bye, at 1 p.m. Saturday in the semifinals. Pioneer will meet Winamac in the other semifinal at 11 a.m., and the winners return at 6 p.m. for the sectional final.
Rochester finished 7-24.
In the end, there were not enough answers for North Miami senior star and Holy Cross basketball recruit Kaiden Hanley.
“I think so,” Strasser said. “I think that was a big game-changer. If we could have got that one, it would have been a different outcome. And I said in the timeout right before that, we’ve got to be more aggressive on our serves. Get them out of system. Get them out of system. Hanley can’t crank it when she’s out of system. And we started to be more aggressive. … When you don’t get that win, it’s hard to come back from that.”
Rochester trailed 21-17 in the second set but won five straight points to take a 22-21 lead. Lillee Lett had two kills, Aubrey Wilson dropped in a tip, and Avarie Montel won a joust at the net to give Rochester the lead.
A Kayden Donaldson kill and a Hanley kill off the Rochester block gave North Miami a 23-22 lead.
Lett answered for Rochester. Hanley’s kill gave North Miami a set point. Another Lett kill made it 24-all. But an Ashtyn Halterman tip inside the left sideline and a Gracyn Gidley kill closed out the set.
North Miami then rushed out to a 12-4 lead in the third set before closing out the match.
“We were scrambling almost the entire game, and they were in the driver’s seat,” Strasser said. “They set the tone for offense, and we were just scrambling in chaos. … A lot of it, I don’t think we attacked when we needed to attack. We didn’t start out serving very aggressive, and we were just playing not to lose, and they were playing to win. It was that different mindset.”
North Miami jumped out to a 13-5 lead to start the match. Rochester would go on a pair of three-point runs and would get within 17-11. The second run included a Darah Strasser kill and an Audrey Bolinger tip.
North Miami would close on an 8-1 run.
The loss completes Strasser’s first year as varsity coach and ends the prep career of lone senior Keyton Doran. Formerly the coach at the middle school level, Strasser said emerging talent is on its way.
“You’re sad to see your senior go, but it looks bright,” coach Strasser said. “It’s exciting to know that we’ve got that first year of experience under our belts for us as a staff, but also, a lot of these girls, their first year of varsity under their belts. … And just the first year of a program is always tough, and so it’s exciting. We have a lot of talent coming up from the middle school. We have a lot of ideas in place and things we’d like to implement with our feeder programs.
“Our middle school is full of athletic girls, and that’s exciting. If only we could grow them a little taller.”