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Chris Murphy, Published October 24 2012

Moorhead wins opening playoff matchup 3-0 over Brainerd

MOORHEAD – As the “Star-Spangled Banner” played Wednesday before the first round of the Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 high school volleyball playoffs, the girls of the Moorhead team – standing next to one another – tapped each other’s toes one by one.

The Spuds certainly got off on the right foot, sweeping No. 5-seeded Brainerd 27-25, 25-20, 25-13 and setting up a matchup with top-seeded Fergus Falls on Friday.

“It’s always hard to get going in the playoffs,” Moorhead coach Char Lien said. “Playing at home in that first round is not always what coaches dream about, but, for this team, that was probably good for us. It gets those nerves out. This year we’ve really been up and down, but this past weekend we built some confidence and got some things going our way.”

Moorhead (15-13) took its first lead of Set 1 when a Brainerd (12-17-2) sideout made it 21-20.

A Warriors service error gave the Spuds a 24-22 lead. Two kills by Courtney Ryan, a block by Mikaela Chandler and a kill by Jenna Degen turned everything around, giving the Warriors a 25-24 lead.

Emily Uglem smashed a kill to tie things at 25 and a lift violation and a set into the net by the Warriors gave the Spuds a 27-25 win.

After Set 1 was tied at 19, the Warriors had four service errors and a lift violation to help hand the momentum to Moorhead.

“We fought through the first game and did what we could,” Uglem said. “The second game we wanted to get the first two points and the third game we didn’t want to give up the momentum.”

Moorhead didn’t get the first two points of Set 2, but the Spuds did get seven of the first nine points, eventually pushing their lead to 17-9 before taking the set 25-20.

Set 3 was complete domination by the Spuds, as they opened with a 14-4 run behind two kills and an ace from Amber Gunkel, a kill each from Lexi Johnson and Maddie Swanson and a block from Emily Tollefson. The Spuds never allowed the Warriors within seven points after the 14-4 run in Set 3 and, after taking the first set, never trailed the rest of the match.

“A lot of us had a lot of butterflies in the beginning, but now that we got the one win under our belt, we’re ready for Fergus,” Uglem said. “We have to play our game, play like we can and we can do it.”

Moorhead will head to Fergus Falls for a 7 p.m. Friday matchup versus an Otters team featuring five girls above 5 feet, 10 inches.

“I think we just kept our heads and kept playing the way we know we can play tonight,” said Swanson, who finished with 10 kills. “We need to come in with the confidence that we know we can beat Fergus. We need to get around our block and get smart with our placement and our hitting.”

B (kills-blocks-aces): Degen 1-0-0, Chandler 9-2-0, Kangas 1-0-1 (15 assists), Fletcher 3-2-0, Ryan 9-1-0, Johnshoy 2-0-0, Kassulker 3-2-0.

M: Uglem 10-0-0, Tollefson 1-2-2, Dorow 0-0-0 (nine digs), Johnson 6-0-1, Swanson 10-0-0, LaFlamme 4-2-0, Gulseth 0-0-3, Gunkel 2-0-1 (27 assists).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548