Kevin Schnepf, Published November 01 2013
Spuds advance to state in volleyballFERGUS FALLS, Minn. – They always say the third time is a charm.
It was that and then some for Moorhead’s volleyball team Friday night, when it claimed a Minnesota Class 3A, Section 8 championship with a 23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-15 win over Alexandria – a team the Spuds had lost to twice during the regular season.
As a result, the Spuds will advance to next week’s state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“We just knew there wasn’t any other option other than to win,” said Moorhead senior hitter Olivia Ostlie, whose team has now won 9 of its last 10 matches. “We have found a rhythm and we have kept going with it.”
The Spuds, now 18-11, jumped out to a 13-7 lead in the first set, but ended up losing 25-23. No need to panic is the message Spud coach Char Lien relayed to her team.
“That maturity finally kicked in,” said Lien, who plays six seniors. “This team plays so much better when we get that lead and get that confidence.”
Building leads was no problem at all for the Spuds Friday night. After letting the first set slip away, the Spuds forced Alexandria to play catch-up the rest of the match. It was a bit uncharacteristic for Alexandria, whose season ends with a 20-9 record.
“We absolutely did have to play catch-up all night,” said Alexandria coach Becky Schlichting. “Our girls have that fight and that character, but as well as Moorhead has been playing lately, we just could not afford to play from behind.”
The Spuds built leads of 17-13 and 19-15 in the second set before Alexandria battled back to tie it at 19, 20, 21, and 22. The Spuds then produced three straight blocks to seal their first set win.
“We could take a deep breath and play a little more relaxed after that,” said Lien.
“That took the pressure off a little bit,” Ostlie said.
The Spuds built leads of 17-5, 20-10 and 24-20 in the third set. But Alexandria would not die, closing the gap to 24-23. That’s when one of Alexandria’s digs sailed out of bounds to give the Spuds their 25-23 lead.
It was all Spuds in the fourth-and-deciding set. They built a quick 10-5 lead and expanded that to 17-11 after kills from Ostlie, Emily Tollefson and Brianna Carney. Carney finished the match with 15 kills, Ostlie with 13 and the lefthand Tollefson with 7.
Alyssa LaFlamme, who equaled Carney with 15 kills, finished the match with a kill.
“Olivia has been our mainstay for much of the season,” said Lien, who has been the Spuds’ head coach since 1999. “But we knew we were going to have to mix it up against a good team like Alexandria.”
Alexandria, playing with only two seniors, saw a different Moorhead team this time around.
“We struggled with serve receive all night whereas Moorhead’s ball control was exceptional compared to the times we saw them in the past,” said Schlichting, who already has her eyes set on a state tournament next year. “Our goal will be to have smiles on our faces after this match next year.”
The Spuds, meanwhile, will advance to their 20th state tournament in school history – their first since 2010.
MOORHEAD (kills-blocks-aces): Lund 0-0-0 (7 digs), Gunkel 0-1-2 (29 assists, 17 digs), Borgen 0-0-0, Uglem 6-1-0 (17 digs), Tollefson 7-1-3, Carney 15-2-0, Ostlie 13-1-2, Gulseth 0-0-1 (18 digs), LaFlamme 15-2-1.
ALEXANDRIA (kills-blocks-aces): Schultz 6-2-3, Bistodeau 11-0-1, Christenson 3-3-1, Kuennen 7-1-0, Dolan 0-0-0 (13 digs), Johnson 10-0-0, Haack 1-1-1 (36 assists).
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