MANKATO - The Class AA, No. 6-ranked and No. 1-seeded Le Sueur-Henderson Giants volleyball team swept the No. 4-seeded Blue Earth Area Bucs, 25-19, 25-15, 25-13, in the Section 2AA, South Sub-Section semifinals on Tuesday night at Mankato East High School.
The Giants (21-8) advance to face the No. 3-seeded Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Bucs at 7:45 p.m. Thursday night at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter for the South Sub-Section championship.
The WEM Bucs reached the sub-section final by upsetting the No. 2- seeded Tri-City United Titans, 20-25, 25-20, 25-23, 22-25, 15-8.
KILL SHOT — Blue Earth Area hitter Janessa Jahnke (12), shown smacking a kill during Section 2AA, South Sub-Section action, delivered eight kills for the Bucs during a three-game loss to Le Sueur-Henderson on Tuesday night in Mankato. (Photo courtesy of Kevin Mertens)
Blue Earth Area ended its season with a 21-10 overall record.
Le Sueur-Henderson pounded the Bucs' back row and scattered kills all over the court on its way to a 3-0 victory.
Giants' setter Jane Fraser set Gabby Thomas right away for a quick first point of Game 1.
Ali Plieseis then set Danica Tiegs for a tip to give the Giants a 3-1 lead. It wasn't until Jessica Thelemann ripped a back-row attack from Plieseis down for a point that Le Sueur-Henderson showed its true firepower.
Thelemann displayed her hitting abilities, blasting through a block by Whitney Pirsig and Janessa Jahnke to make it 6-3, before tipping a set from Thomas over to make it 13-10.
The Bucs continued to attack and Jahnke fired three straight sets down to the floor for points to make it 19-15.
Thelemann put an end to the BEA rally, smashing home a Plieseis set to make it 20-15.
The Thelemann-from-Plieseis connection ended the game for the Giants, with the attack from the left side landing just inside the line to make it 25-19.
"I think we took them by surprise in Game 1 and got them back on their heels a little bit," said Blue Earth Area coach Donna Nawrocki.
The Giants jumped out to a 4-0 lead in Game 2 before Krista Hassing ended the scoring run, sending a Monica Krieger set over on a tip.
Despite the Bucs' best efforts, the Giants kept attacking.
"They are one of the top teams in the state. Their middle hitter (Thelemann) can hit it wherever she wants to and we knew that they would be a tough challenge for us," said Nawrocki.
With a 9-5 lead, Fraser rotated back to the service line, and with the help of a few Buc errors, a Thelemann kill and a tip from Thomas, the Giants extended their lead to 14-5.
Jahnke put an end to the scoring run on a slide kill, sending a floating tip down to make it 14-6.
Both teams traded points, with Thomas and Hassing battling and trading kills.
With a 19-14 lead, the Giants' Allison Murphy rotated in to serve and helped her team go on a four-point run to make it 23-14.
A Le Sueur-Henderson attack sailed out to give Pirsig the serve trailing 23-15. The serve went into the net, returning the ball back to the Giants for the game point. Thelemann sealed the win with a tip to make it 25-15.
The Bucs took their first and only lead of the match at 2-1 in Game 3 after a Hassing kill from the left side on a Krieger assist.
The Giants rallied and managed to take a 5-2 lead on the arm of Thelemann, who recorded four straight kills.
Trailing 17-10, Hassing powered a swing off a Giants' double-block to make it 17-10 and a kill from Thomas that sailed out made it 17-11.
Unfortunately for BEA, Fraser rotated to the service line with a 20-13 lead and served out the win.
"We were in it for the first two games, but against a good team it's hard to come back," said Nawrocki. "My players went out fighting though in those last two games. We came back fighting and hung in there with them."
Hassing tallied nine kills, seven digs and four ace serves in her final prep volleyball match, while Jahnke recorded eight kills, seven digs and made two blocks for the Bucs.
Krieger distributed 20 set assists during her final match for Blue Earth Area, while teammate Audrey McDonald went a perfect 11-for-11 serving on the night.