The first two sets against Faribault didn’t go as planned for the Mankato East volleyball team on Tuesday.

The passing wasn’t quite there, and the defense could have been tighter.

However, despite losing 3-0 to the Falcons, the Cougars continued to battle when it would have been easy to fold.

After the 25-22, 25-15, 29-27 Big Nine Conference loss, East coach Dan Blasl found plenty of positives, including the strong third set that perhaps the Cougars deserved to win.

“The final set showed us we can play with them,” Blasl said. “I was happy with the mindset we showed at the end.”

Middle hitter Madie Clarke agreed.

“In that last set, we were determined,” Clarke said. “We showed that we won’t quit and that we have the ability to comeback.”

It’s been a difficult start to the season for the Cougars thus far.

East entered Tuesday’s match against Faribault with a 1-7 record and were looking to get back on the right track.

The match started well, with East taking a 6-1 lead in the first set, highlighted by a kill from Mackenzie Schweim.

Faribault controlled the remainder of the set, eventually catching the Cougars midway through the set and forcing a timeout by Blasl. East was trailing 24-21, when a Rachel Clifford kill cut the lead to two points. This was all the Cougars could muster, however, eventually falling at the end.

The second set started well for East. Clifford had a kill for the Cougars first point. However, a 7-0 run for the Falcons in the middle of the set was to much for east to overcome.

“Passing is something we struggled with at times tonight,” Blasl said. “You can have good hitters, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t set them up.”

Things began to change in the third. After the Falcons took the first point, East took the next three, with the first coming on a kill from Lexi Karge. The teams continued to trade points, with East slowly gaining momentum.

East took it’s biggest lead at 13-10 in the middle of the set on a Kailee Magaard ace serve.

The Falcons continued to play comeback throughout the set, with East seemingly always a point ahead. Later, East got another key point, taking a 22-20 lead on an ace serve by Clifford.

The Cougars had a 24-22 lead, but they couldn’t put the Falcons away despite needing only one point to win and force a fourth set.

The teams continued to play well past 25, and East had two more chances to put the Falcons away. In the end they came up just short despite a key block and tip by Clarke.

“I think this helped us learn to forget about what happened and move forward,” Clarke said. “It’s important to move on, because there’s always a new point.”

Clifford finished with 10 kills and six digs for the Cougars. Schweim had nine kills and eight digs. Ana Christofferson added 19 digs. Magaard finished with 24 set assists.

East (1-8) will play again Tuesday at Rochester John Marshall.

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