Esko can't get by star-laden Rush City


November 10, 2023

Dan Saletel

Esko players and fans ride the waves of emotion in the Section 7AA volleyball championship Saturday in Hermantown. Rush City qualified for the state tournament with a 3-0 win.

For the third consecutive season, Rush City ended the Esko girls volleyball season in the 7AA playoffs. Last year, a late comeback by Esko in the section final forced a deciding fifth set for the Tigers before 700 fans. In 2021, the Tigers ended the Esko season in the section quarterfinals. On Saturday, Rush City swept Esko 3-0 to advance back to the state girls volleyball tournament this week in St. Paul.

"They are a very good team with so many great players," said Esko head coach Pete Stasiuk. "We thought we had some chances, but we could not overcome them. We had a plan to attack and try to play the ball when we had chances, but just couldn't get our job done."

Esko volleyball was hoping to play in its fourth-ever girls state tournament, their first since back-to-back appearances in 2010 and 2011. Rush City made its first appearance at the state tournament last year.

Rush City and Esko battled in the first set but Rush City pulled away for a 25-18 victory. The Tigers won the second set 25-14.

Although Esko was hoping for a turnaround like a season ago, Rush City prevented that with outstanding play, winning 25-18 in the third and final set Saturday evening at Hermantown High School.

Dan Saletel

Esko's Bailey Plante gets a hit on the ball to set up play against Rush City Saturday evening in Hermantown.

Esko tried to keep play away from talented Tiger Cora Sayotovich but the Minnesota Gophers recruit had too many great stretches of serves and outstanding back row play.

"We had a good season, and we are so proud of this team," Stasiuk said. "The girls worked hard and never quit."

Esko finishes the season with a record of 24-5 on the season.

"We played a tough schedule and, on the season, all five of our losses came to state-ranked teams, so we know we had a nice run the last two seasons," Stasiuk said.

With the section final win, the Tigers record improved to 28-2. They will face Annandale in the state quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon for the second year in a row.


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