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Hawley volleyball team’s first state tournament appearance a family affair for Rustads

Kathleen Rustad serves as the head coach of the Hawley volleyball team that will make its first state tournament appearance in program history on Thursday and features her two daughters, Faith and Ingrid

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The Rustad family celebrates with the hardware from Hawley's Section 8AA volleyball championship win. From left to right are Bjarne (dad), Faith, Ingrid and Hawley head coach Kathleen Rustad (mom). Photo special to The Forum

HAWLEY, Minn. — Family gatherings have been synonymous with volleyball for as long as Ingrid and Faith Rustad can remember.

“There’s some sort of four-square volleyball game or spike ball going on during the summer or there’s conversation about volleyball or someone is in JO and has some sort of volleyball thing going on,” said Hawley head volleyball coach Kathleen Rustad.

It was never a question whether Faith and Ingrid would be volleyball players. They were born into a family of them. Their mom, Kathleen, was the youngest of seven sisters who all went on to play college volleyball at North Dakota State or Minnesota State Moorhead.

Faith and Ingrid spent much of their childhoods in the gym participating in volleyball camps themselves or watching their mother lead them. Thursday’s Minnesota Class AA state volleyball quarterfinal matchup at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul will be another family affair for the Rustads.

Kathleen serves as the head coach of the section-championship winning Hawley volleyball team that features both of her daughters — Faith, a senior, and Ingrid, a freshman. The Nuggets (27-5) will make their first state appearance in program history on Thursday. Hawley captured its first-ever section volleyball title last Saturday in a sweep over Thief River Falls to advance.

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The Hawley volleyball team celebrates after winning the program's first-ever section volleyball title over Thief River Falls. Mike Aamot / Special to The Forum

The Nuggets will play No. 2 seed and Section 1 champion Cannon Falls (27-5) in the quarterfinals at 11 a.m. Thursday at Xcel Energy Center. There’ll be a number of family members in the audience as the Rustads take on the Bombers, who were ranked third in the final Associated Press high school volleyball poll.

Around 15 to 20 family members were in attendance for the Section 8AA championship match. The Nuggets dropped just three sets the entire section tournament and avenged two regular-season losses to Barnesville with a satisfying 3-1 win in the semifinals.

“The first feeling was disbelief,” Faith said of clinching the section title. “We couldn’t believe it. Then the next feeling was probably excitement.”

The Nuggets have surpassed their own expectations this fall. They didn’t expect to get this far at the beginning of the season, Faith said.

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Hawley's Faith Rustad receives her first-place medal after winning the Minnesota Section 8AA volleyball tournament. Mike Aamot / Special to The Forum

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"Not even close," said Faith, a 5-foot-9 outside hitter. "That never crossed our minds."

While the program will make its debut, the state tournament stage isn’t an unfamiliar place for Kathleen, who grew up in McIntosh, Minn., 75 miles miles away from Hawley. Kathleen was an all-state volleyball player for Win-E-Mac and led the Patriots to two state appearances, including a runner-up finish in 1996.

“It’s definitely a different perspective, being on the other side,” said Kathleen, who played her college career at NDSU. “You feel joy in a different way, like times 15 for the girls.”

Kathleen had a standout career for the Bison from 1998-2001, finishing with 2,216 career assists. She’s in her second season at the helm of the Nuggets, but has coached her daughters in camps or JOs since they were in elementary school. Away from the court, Kathleen admitted the upcoming state tournament is also a little bittersweet, knowing Faith won’t be in a Hawley uniform next fall.

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Faith, Ingrid and Kathleen Rustad pose with family members after the Nuggets captured the Minnesota Section 8AA volleyball title. Photo special to The Forum

“When you see them mature into more than just a volleyball player, it’s so rewarding and you want them to do that,” Kathleen said, as Faith echoed “Mom, don’t cry” in the background. “But you’re not quite ready to see them go yet because it’s been a pretty fun ride so far.”

That family bond that starts with the Rustads has translated to the Nuggets. Cohesiveness and togetherness has been one of Hawley’s strong suits on and off the court this season, Kathleen said.

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“The theme of the team this year has been give it your all and stronger together,” Kathleen said. “They realize they're not perfect, but gosh when they get together and they believe in each other wonderful things happen on the court.”

The Nuggets are up for the challenge against a talented Cannon Falls team. With a balanced makeup of experience and varsity newcomers, Hawley enters the state tournament having won its last 10 matches.

“We all had this mindset that we’re a small town and the teams there are big and we’re not even in their league,” Faith said. “But we had a little team meeting (Tuesday) where we said we can do some damage. We can play with them.”

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The Hawley volleyball team will make its first state appearance in program history on Thursday at the Xcel Center. Mike Aamot / Special to The Forum

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALL
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