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Chris Murphy, Published November 07 2013

Moorhead volleyball falls to top-seeded Eagan in state quarterfinals

ST. PAUL – Things started shaky for Moorhead’s volleyball team at the Minnesota Class 3A quarterfinals before the first serve ever ventured toward the net.

CeCe Borgen was the first name introduced for the Spuds as she and April Johnson whiffed on their high-five with one of them taking a hit to the face. It didn’t get much better from there.

The bright lights of the Xcel Energy Center and the state tournament were not kind to Moorhead, as the Spuds fell to top-seeded Eagan 25-13, 25-16, 25-14 Thursday, ending the hopes of the Spuds’ first state volleyball championship since 1988.

“We didn’t play the way we’re capable of,” Moorhead coach Char Lien said. “I don’t know if it was the venue or some nerves or a little overexcited to play. We know we’re capable of playing better, and we knew we had to bring our ‘A’ game, and we just didn’t today.”

There was little room for error for Moorhead (18-12) against an Eagan team that was 27-2 coming into the tournament. The Spuds picked up an error on their first serve, finishing with 25 attack errors, three service errors and two receiving errors. Eagan had just nine attack errors and one receiving error.

“We had way too many errors on our side, and you’re not going to win against a team like that when you do that,” Lien said.

Moorhead took an early

3-1 lead on Eagan in both Set 1 and Set 2. In Set 1, the Wildcats answered with a 14-3 run and in Set 2 they answered with a 16-7 run to put the Spuds away. It

was Eagan’s first trip to state since 2006, but the Wildcats didn’t let the lights get too bright or their focus stray.

“The nerves are always there, but everyone was prepared and we just gave it our all out there,” Eagan outside hitter Taylr McNeil said. “The fans were

amazing. It was great to have so many people behind us.”

McNeil was unstoppable for Eagan (28-2). The senior, who will play volleyball next year at the University of South Carolina, finished with 19 kills, six digs and three blocks for the Wildcats.

“How do you compete with that?” Lien said. “They have a couple of great athletes and our game plan was to serve away from (them), get them to pass out of the system and make it a little more challenging for them to hit, but we didn’t hit all our serving zones. When you do that, you pay the price.”

Moorhead made its run in Set 3, turning a 14-7 Eagan lead into a 14-12 lead, but five kills from McNeil slammed the door shut.

“This is my last year, which is really good for me because I keep feeling like I have next year,” McNeil said. “I have a little bit more motivation and push to win. We just need to stick with what we’re doing and take every game seriously.”

Moorhead will head to the consolation bracket today with hopes of a fifth-place finish.

“There were times where we did good things, but then we’d give up four or five points in a row, and we got to eliminate those runs,” Lien said. “The good news is these are things we can fix. We get a chance to play again tomorrow, so as long as we come with our adjustments, we should be fine.”

M (kills-blocks-aces): Gunkel 0-0-0 (24 assists, 13 digs), Uglem 2-0-1, Carney 7-0-1, Ostlie 10-0-0, LaFlamme 8-0-0, Tollefson 3-0-1.

E: M. McNeil 2-0-3, T. McNeil 19-1-3, Orr 10-0-2 (18 assists), Schapekahm 5-0-3, Bertsch 3-0-4, Putman 0-0-1, Jurgens 2-0-0, Madison 0-0-0 (13 digs).


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Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548