Oct. 31: 3-2 Win over Southwest Christian
Last Thursday night’s Sub-section 2AA North championship volleyball match between the Belle Plaine Tigers and the Southwest Christian Stars was not for the faint of heart, particularly if you happened to be a Belle Plaine fan. The match followed Belle Plaine’s sweeping victory over Norwood Young America in the opening round of the tournament on Oct. 29.
In the former teams’ opening set, the Tigers were mostly on the defensive as the Stars employed a virtually error-free game plan. Finding the dead spaces on the floor when serving, the Stars caught the Tigers on their heels early in the set, causing a Belle Plaine timeout with the score at 8-4 in favor of the Stars.
The Tigers stayed patient but always seemed to be on the losing end of long exchanges, which led to the Stars pulling away late into the set.
The Stars finally put the Tigers away after a 6-1 run, ending the opening bout 25-16.
Things began looking up for the Tigers in the second set when a series of key plays demonstrated that the Stars could be caught.
With Belle Plaine trailing 6-7, Tiger McKenna Ziemke finessed a shot into the Stars dead zone during a set that had been a tit-for-tat affair up to that point.
The teams continued to go shot-for-shot until Belle Plaine senior Morgan Kruger fired a shot down the pipe of the Stars to give the Tigers the 10-9 lead.
Late in the set, Kruger and fellow hitter Mikayla Coops began finding their rhythm and calibrated their shots.
The Tigers either had the lead or were within three points of the Stars, who simply made fewer mistakes during a second set that was the quintessential game of inches. The Tigers ultimately gave up the set, falling 25-22, but the tide was clearly turning for a hungry Belle Plaine squad who were down 2-0.
The Tigers rode their momentum into set three, which could have been their last, and opened things up with a 5-1 run complete with two aces from Kruger.
Belle Plaine’s Lizzie Hilgers came to life up front and mounted several key defensive plays to maintain the Tigers’ rhythm.
With the Tigers up 11-8, Hilgers threaded the needle with a shot into dead space, putting the Tigers up 12-8 and causing a Stars timeout. Following another Kruger kill, Hilgers scored two more with a deep shot and a stuffed Stars shot at the net.
The Tigers rode the tide and dominated the Stars with a 25-14 victory.
Set four was another game of inches that saw Belle Plaine getting the better of the runs. Belle Plaine’s hitters were dialed in, and the back court chemistry was alive and well as the Tigers crept to a 24-23 lead.
The Tigers tied the match up at two sets apiece after Leah Lenz won a battle at the net, securing the 25-23 close-out.
The final set had both teams’ fan sections on their feet as the teams again went shot-for-shot.
A long volley found the floor in Belle Plaine territory, tying things up at eight and igniting the Stars.
Things eventually tied back up at 12 points apiece. But a booming kill from Coops to follow that up gave the Tigers the 13-12 lead and set the stage for the final points of the contest.
The Tigers stayed patient as they chipped away at the Stars who began to panic. A pair of routine points for the Tigers sealed the deal, giving the second-seeded Tigers the victory over the top-seeded Stars.
Nov. 2: 3-0 Win over LS-H
Last Saturday’s Section 2AA championship match between the Tigers and Le Sueur-Henderson was Belle Plaine’s to lose. In the team’s last outing, the Tigers swept the Giants in unambiguous fashion, but Belle Plaine coach Rich Foust stated he was unwilling to underestimate the Giants, who pulled off a comeback win over St. Peter to earn their shot at the Tigers.
The Giants were late to come to the table, but they came to play.
In the teams’ opening set, Belle Plaine hit their rhythm early and kept up the pressure on a struggling LS-H team. The Tigers capitalized on the Giants’ inability to dial in their power shots to earn a 25-12 display.
The Giants began to come to life in the second set when the Tigers began making uncharacteristic mistakes.
Belle Plaine libero Sydney Meyer began her series of service aces in the second set, but otherwise, the Tigers began giving the Giants some breathing room. Ultimately, however, the Tigers still got the job done with a 25-18 win.
The third set seemed like it might tell a tale similar to the first two when things got off to a 4-1 start in favor of the Tigers, but the Giants came to life in what proved to be a battle of attrition.
The Tigers maintained the lead heading into the middle phase of the set, but the Giants were stubborn about letting up.
Things got tied up at 12 points apiece, then again at 15.
Another ace from Meyer bookended a 4-1 run for the Tigers putting them up 20-16.
The teams then went shot-for-shot until the end. The Tigers remained stubborn and sealed the deal with a 28-26 victory over the wily Giants, earning their place in the state tournament.
The Tigers open up the state tournament on Thursday, Nov. 7, against Marshall at 7 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
2019 BPHS Volleyball Results and Schedule
(19 wins, 6 losses)
Aug. 23 - New Prague 3, BP 0
Aug. 27 - Jordan 0, BP 3
Sept. 3 - Waterville/Elysian/Morristown 3, BP 2
Sept. 5 - Norwood Young America 0, BP 3
Sept. 12 - Southwest Christian H.S. 2, BP 3
Sept. 16 - Holy Family Catholic H.S. 0, BP 3
Sept. 19 - Sibley East High School 0, BP 3
Sept. 20-21 Class AA Showcase - 4th/18 (3 wins, 2 losses)
Sept. 24 Mankato East 0, BP 3
Sept. 26 - Jordan 2, BP 3
Oct. 1 - Mankato West 3, BP 2
Oct. 3 - Le Sueur-Henderson 0, BP 3
Oct. 8 - Chaska 0, BP 3
Oct. 10 - Tri-City United High School 0, BP 3
Oct. 12 - Bloomington Jefferson Tourney - 3rd place/16 teams
Oct. 15 - Mayer Lutheran High School 3, BP 2
Oct. 19 - Chaska Tourney - 7th place
Oct. 24 - Holy Family 0, BP 3
Oct. 29 - Norwood Young America 0, BP 3
Oct. 31 - Southwest Christian H.S. 2, BP 3
Nov. 2 - Le Sueur-Henderson 0, BP 3
Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul vs. Marshall in MSHSL Tournament
Final MRC Standings
Belle Plaine 6 1
Mayer Lutheran 6 1
Southwest Christian 6 1
Jordan 4 3
NYA Central 3 4
Le Sueur Henderson 2 5
Tri-City United 1 6
Sibley East 0 7