Back at the state tournament for the first time since 2013, No. 2 seed Minneota started with a 25-20, 25-10, 25-21 sweep of the Eagles.
The Vikings (28-5) were backed with 21 kills from Lydia Sussner, 36 assists from Morgan Kockleman and 15 digs from Lizzy Gillingham.
“We can definitely depend on Lydia in tough situations if we need to,” Kockelman said.
Meanwhile, it was a struggle for New Life Academy (18-14) to contain Sussner. Eagles junior captain Kate Rogers said she was frustrated trying to block Sussner, saying, “I just kept my eye on her.”
It’s the first state tournament appearance for the Eagles, after they didn’t drop a set in the Section 4 tournament.
The Eagles shook off the nerves and were down 12-3 in the third set before getting within a couple points at 18-16 with a late run before the Vikings closed out the match.
“We started to block the ball a little bit better,” Eagles coach Wally Bomgren said.
With a 2016 state championship in their back pockets, three all-state players and nine seniors on her team, Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley acknowledges that at times her biggest chore is spreading the wealth.
But after posting their 30th victory of the season in a 25-15, 25-9, 25-19 Class 1A quarterfinals victory over Cook County Friday, even that has become a non-factor.
“Sometimes this year, there were times when we said ‘Let’s get this person the ball a little more’ or things like that,” Grimsley said. “But they’re super supportive and very encouraging toward each other. They’re happy for each other when things go well.”
With so much veteran experience, things could scarcely have gone better. The Crusaders lost just twice this season, once each to the No. 1 ranked team in the larger classes, Eagan and Maple Lake. At times, the team ran so smoothly that Grimsley just sat back and watched.
“I don’t call time-outs very often,” Grimley said. “They know what they’re supposed to do. I’ve let them do a lot.”
The all-state seniors lived up to their billing Thursday. Madison Hucky had 23 set assists and added 10 kills. Sophia Heuer had 9 kills and 14 digs and libero Mya Chmielewski had 10 digs.
Grimley said the team’s focus has changed from simply getting to the tournament to winning it all.
“They know this is it. Those nine seniors know they have two days left together on the court and then will be different. They’re going to do everything they can to get back to where they were last year.”
Ada-Borup/Norman County West's Ivy Johnson (11) went up to block a shot by Wadena-Deer Creek's Ellie Miron (14). Photo: Anthony Souffle, Star Tribune
No. 4-seeded Wadena-Deer Creek defeated Ada-Borup/Norman County West in three sets, 25-17, 25-16, 25-23. Outside hitter Casey Volkmann had 14 kills and setter Ashley Adams set up many of them and finished with 30 set assists for the Wolverines (26-6). Ada-Borup/Norman County West fell to 21-11.
Olivia Nass (4) of Bethlehem Academy celebrated after her team scored a point in the third set against Pine River-Backus. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune
Senior Mary Campbell led No. 3 seed Bethlehem Academy with 21 kills and 12 digs in a four-set, 25-17, 25-11, 27-25, 25-20 victory. Pine River-Backus eighth-grader Abby Jandro had 50 set assists for the Tigers.