BLUE EARTH - Despite a close match-up in their first meeting, the No. 4-seeded Blue Earth Area Bucs handed the No. 5-seeded New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Panthers a 25-19, 25-19, 25-18 loss in the Section 2A, South Sub-Section quarterfinals on Thursday in Blue Earth.
The Bucs (21-9) advance to play the No. 1-seeded and No. 6-ranked Le Sueur Henderson Giants in the sub-section semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Mankato East High School.
LSH (20-8) defeated Maple River, 25-15, 25-5, 25-13, to advance.
SET UP — The Bucs’ Monica Krieger sets the volleyball during Section 2AA, South Sub-Section quarterfinal action Thursday night in Blue Earth. Photo Courtesy of Kevin Mertens
The Panthers finished the season at 10-19.
With the Bucs leading 13-8 in Game 1, they went on a five-point run to get within striking distance of the win. Audrey McDonald started the run, pounding a Monica Krieger set assist through the Panthers' double block by Jade Schultz and Noelle Bartness.
After a passing error from NRHEG gave BEA a 15-8 lead, Krista Hassing combined with McDonald on a block, followed by double blocks from Hassing and Whitney Pirsig to deny the Panthers any offense at 18-8.
Schultz and Bartness combined for a block on a McDonald attack to end the BEA streak to make it 18-9.
A Hassing kill off another Panther block sealed the 25-19 victory.
"We really set the pace early in the match. The plan was coming out and blocking them, we knew their big hitters were Schultz and Carlie Wagner, and we did a good job of blocking them," said Blue Earth Area head coach Donna Nawrocki.
The Panthers started Game 2 with Schultz serving an ace to take the 1-0 lead. NRHEG managed to hold the lead until the Bucs went ahead at 6-5.
Janessa Jahnke tallied one of her 12 blocks to finally give the Bucs the lead in Game 2.
Jahnke then denied back-to-back Panther attacks and on the third BEA possession Ashton Hendricksen cranked a kill for a 7-5 lead.
Blue Earth Area did not give up the lead again in the second game.
Hassing sent a Krieger set off a Panther block to make it 24-19, before NRHEG's Wagner hit a Bartness set past the end line to make it 25-19 for BEA.
Up 2-0, the Bucs altered their strategy and McDonald proceeded to win the first two points on sharp-angled kills that rolled off the top of the net.
Pirsig then gave the Bucs' back possession by putting a Krieger set to the floor for the 3-1 lead.
"We talked about how the right side was open in between the second and third game, so our attacks came from the left more often," said Nawrocki. "I talked with my hitters and reminded them about making sure they change up their shots, and tonight they did."
Jahnke and Pirsig later put the exclamation mark on the game with a block to make it 8-6. Hassing and Krieger combined to end the game, sending a Panthers attack to the floor.
Jahnke had 12 kills, with 10 digs and three blocks and three ace serves. Hassing tallied 10 kills, made seven digs and eight blocks, while McDonald served 12 of 13.
Hendricksen made 10 digs, while Krieger scattered 25 set assists and went a perfect 16-for-16 serving with one ace.