ST. PAUL - The No. 1-seeded and top-ranked Bethlehem Academy Cardinals of Faribault showed why they are the defending Class A state volleyball champions by posting a 25-13, 25-12, 25-7 victory over the Martin County West Mavericks during the state quarterfinals on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Bethlehem Academy (24-7) advances to face No. 5-seeded and No. 8-ranked Win-E-Mac at 1 p.m. today in the state semifinals on Court 1 at the Xcel Energy Center. Win-E-Mac rallied for a 25-23, 19-25, 19-25, 25-18, 15-11 opening victory over No. 4-seeded and No. 6-ranked Nevis.
The Mavericks (23-11) face Nevis in the consolation semifinals at 1 p.m. today on Court 2 at the Xcel Energy Center.
DIVING DIG — Martin County West libero Molly Klima makes a diving dig during Class A state volleyball quarterfinal action Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Mavericks’ Kennedy Janssen (11) and head coach Mary Sussenguth (far right) watch the action. (Photo by Leanna Becker)
Senior middle hitter Maddie Borwege led the Cardinals' air attack with 16 kills, and started off the match with its first kill on an assist from eighth-grade setter Payton Nutter.
The Mavericks responded with a quick counter kill from Jordan Gregory on a set assist from Morgan Williamson. The Cardinals then rattled off three straight points to take a 5-1 lead.
Martin County West snapped the scoring streak when Taryn Tumbleson sent a Williamson set assist down for a kill to make it 5-2.
Trailing 12-7, the Mavericks' Kate Thiesse took the point at the end of a long rally by smoking a Williamson set assist down on the right side.
"We had a lot of nerves playing here our first time. We are a young team and to be in this atmosphere is tough if you aren't used to it," said Martin County West head coach Mary Sussenguth. "I was really impressed that we were able to stick with them on some of the long rallies though, that was exciting for us."
Molly Klima stole another point for the Mavericks when one of her 12 match digs - off a Borwege spike - fell between a pair of Cardinals to slice Bethlehem Academy's lead in half at 18-9 in the opener.
Holding a 10-point lead, the Cardinals' Payton Schulz and Nichole Van Horn drilled back-to-back kills to seal the 25-13 Game 1 victory.
"They are a great team. They don't make many mistakes and it was tough for us, especially on those long rallies. We are used to being on the winning end of those and they were stealing those points," said Sussenguth.
Martin County West grabbed a quick 1-0 lead in Game 2 behind a Williamson-to-Thiesse connection for a kill. Unfortunately for Martin County West, the lead did not last long.
The Cardinals scored six straight points, including an ace from Nutter, to make it 6-1, before Tumbleson smacked a kill from the left side for the Mavericks to make it 6-2.
Bethlehem Academy closed out the Game 2 victory with five straight points to make it 25-12.
For the second time, Martin County West started with the lead in the third game, thanks to another one of Gregory's four match kills.
A Tumbleson attack was blocked by Borwege to tie the game at 1-1. A Cardinal kill sailed off a Maverick to take the lead before Thiesse knotted the game with one of her three match kills.
From there, Bethlehem Academy went on a 10-point run, thanks to five Borwege kills, and another two from Jessie Mathews, making it 13-3.
A Borwege attack later sunk into the net to finally end the string at 13-4.
Tumbleson pounded down her team-leading sixth kill on a Williamson set to reduce the Cardinals' advantage to 15-5.
Lauren Mathews delivered an ace serve put the Cardinals within one of the Game 3 victory and a match sweep before a kill sailing off a Maverick defender during the 32nd point sealed the 25-7 victory.
"An advantage for us of playing the No. 1 seed right away is that nothing will get tougher than that. Everyone is overlooking us and we can come back fresh (today) for a brand new day as a brand new team," said Sussenguth.
Libbie Lange scorched four kills for the Mavericks, while Autumn Smith made a team-best 13 digs. Klima recorded 12 digs for Martin County West and Williamson added 10 digs to go along with her 15 set assists.
Borwege led the Cardinals' offense with a match-leading 16 kills, with teammate Jessie Mathews adding 11 kills and Lauren Mathews contributing eight kills.
Nutter doled out 32 set assists to pace Bethlehem Academy.