Armstrong needed a dose of MoJo, and after a brutal stretch that encompassed much of the first half the Falcons season, the volleyball schedule finally conceded it.
And, just as second-year head coach Ayesha Green had envisioned, her team is in the midst of taking advantage.
Armstrong beat Coon Rapids in a five-game match last week, picking up a third straight victory in a streak that has a legitimate chance of growing to five by the time the Falcons arrive in Chanhassen for a tournament Saturday, Sept. 29.
The success was a must for Armstrong, which had endured a 3-8-1 start to a season that included matches against second-ranked Blaine, defending Class 3A state champion Eden Prairie, and Andover, last year’s third place state tournament finisher.
But it was also a by-product of a season designed to test the girls early, give them a bit of a reprieve in the middle, and then test them some more in the end.
“The schedule was deliberate,” Green said. “Last year, the schedule we played was the one I inherited. I had a little more say this year, and I decided to make some changes. We wanted to play the state tournament winners, and the rest of those teams. We wanted to know where we stood.”
Thankfully, the answer was still on their feet when it was over. The hope now, as the Falcons brace for a Sept. 24 match vs. Orono and a Thursday, Sept. 27 visit to Park Center, is that they are better for it.
“We’ll see,” Green said. “We’ve had some promising moments, and there wasn’t a match in which the girls didn’t think they could have won if they didn’t do a couple things differently. But it was a really tough schedule.”
It also didn’t help that Armstrong was forced to navigate the first three weeks without junior Laura Long, who was out with an injured thumb.
The injury to Long, who was one of just a couple of girls returning with varsity experience, forced Green to shuffle the rotation on the floor. With her back, the lineup is settled, and the results have followed suit.
“We had girls playing in spots they had never trained in,” Green said. “You can tell the difference with her back in there. The girls are more comfortable, and they are playing like it.”
Senior outside hitter Jazmyne McGill leads the team in kills with 118, and senior middle Kali Kuusisto is close behind with 94.
Junior setter Indigo Thompson has 31 kills to her credit, and an astounding 284 set assists in 15 matches to go with the number of eye-dropping plays she’s already made this year.
“She is so athletic,” Green said. “There was a ball [at Coon Rapids] that we shanked and it goes behind the ref and she runs all the way over, gets there, and hits it back around the antenna for a legal play that we finish off. It was amazing, and she does that sort of thing all the time.”
The play ended up being a telling one in the Armstrong victory, as the Falcons won each of the first two games, and then proceeded to drop the third and fourth before exploding for a 14-2 lead in the a fifth set they would go on to win 15-6.
“I would have liked to seen us close it out a little better, but we were clearly the better team, and it showed in the end,” Green said. “It shouldn’t have went that far, but it was nice to see that they were resilient about it.”