The Hastings volleyball team took a step forward last Tuesday night, Oct. 3, during their match against Bloomington Kennedy on Dig Pink night. The Raiders showed tremendous energy and played their best volleyball of the season in front of a large home crowd and raucous student section. Hastings won two straight sets to come from behind and force a game five before falling to Kennedy 3-2. The Raiders also lost the South St. Paul on Thursday, Oct. 5, before traveling to a tournament at St. Michael-Albertville. Hastings is now 1-19 on the season with three matches left before section playoffs begin.

Dig Pink

Hastings once again held their Dig Pink fundraiser for breast cancer research and topped it off with a match against Bloomington Kennedy that was flooded with pink. Their goal was to raise $11,000, which organizer Rita Girgen confirmed they exceeded, though final numbers won't be available until after this weekend and their last fundraising event, which is a meat raffle. However, a tweet by the Raider News Twitter account stated that they had raised $14,000 as of the homecoming football game against Tartan. Dig Pink T-shirts were sold, numerous businesses made contributions, and door prizes were raffled off during the match.

Five-set match

The Raiders got out to a quick lead in the first set against Kennedy, but Bloomington made a comeback to lead 16-13 and hung on to win the first set 25-19. In the second set, Hastings got off to a slow start and trailed 13-9 at the first timeout. Then Kennedy went on a run to win the second set 25-14 and take a 2-0 lead with the Raiders facing a final game.

However, Hastings would not be go down without a fight. The Raiders came out fast and full of energy in the third set to lead 14-7 at the first timeout. They then weathered all Kennedy could throw at them to win the third set 25-21. Their energy carried over into the fourth set as the teams went back-and-forth. Hastings led 16-11 but then Kennedy came back to lead 19-17. The Raiders took the lead again and won the fourth set 25-23 and tie the match at 2-2.

Bloomington Kennedy was able to get out to a solid lead early on in the fifth set and hung on to stop the Raiders' comeback 15-11 in the final set and win the match 3-2.

Playing their best

"We talked about how we wanted to control the match and at times we definitely had the control we were looking for," head coach Amy Johnson said. "We started out like gangbusters in the first set and got out to a nice, big lead, and then we kind of let off the gas a little bit and let them come back into the game. From then on it was a fight until the end, they never gave up."

Johnson also said it might have been the best Hastings has played all season.

"It was definitely one of our best matches," she said. "We've played some really good matches that were close, like the Park match or at the River Falls tournament against Altoona, Eau Claire and Osceola. Those were great games but we just didn't close out. But as a complete package against Bloomington Kennedy it was one of our best ones for sure."

She also credited the Dig Pink atmosphere with helping to amp up the energy of the match.

"I think it (the atmosphere) definitely helped," Johnson explained. "Volleyball is definitely a sport of energy and who can maintain that energy level the longest. So having the crowd to feed off of definitely helps keep that energy going."

Hastings was led by their most experienced returning players and leaders, all of whom helped anchor the team's performance with strong efforts of their own.

"Players like Mallory Brake, Josie Pechous and Paula Scharfe definitely took the lead, helped bring the younger girls along and fuel the fire," Johnson said.

Other matches

Two days later Hastings fell at home to South St. Paul 3-1 (20-25, 19-25, 25-21, 19-25). They then traveled to St. Michael-Albertville for a tournament. They opened it against Champlin Park, who is ranked sixth in class 3A, and lost 2-0 (9-25, 10-25). The Raiders then played Orono and lost 2-0 (19-25, 9-25). Their other two matches were not available at the time of writing.

Hastings traveled to River Falls to face the Wildcats on Tuesday, Oct. 10, and then host Hill-Murray on Thursday, Oct. 12. The Raiders finished their regular season on Tuesday, Oct. 17, at Henry Sibley and then section playoffs start.