For all of the points and rallies and spectacular defensive plays, Heritage Christian's five-set victory over Underwood came down to something as simple as a rotation.
Heritage trailed 11-9 in the fifth set when 6-2 middle blocker Bella Lien moved into the front row. Suddenly, the most imposing hitter in the match was right where the Maple Grove school needed her.
"Bella, in terms of kills and blocks, is just a dominant presence," Heritage coach Tom Fuglestad said.
Lien came through with four kills to give momentum back to Heritage, and the No. 4-seeded Eagles held on to defeat an Underwood team that answered nearly every challenge thrown at it.
"When Lien rotated to the front, that was tough," Underwood coach Diane Ross said.
Heritage lost the first game 25-20 but fought back to win the next two sets by identical 25-21 scores. The Eagles held a 22-16 lead in the fourth set, but Underwood tightened up its defense and rallied to win 25-23.
Heritage again took the lead in the fifth set, but Underwood (28-5) never wilted and went on a 4-1 run to take an 11-9 lead. "I thought we were going to come back and win it," Ross said.
Heritage setter Maddy Torve admitted there were times when Underwood's resiliency was frustrating.
"There were points when they were picking everything up," said Torve, who finished with 40 set assists and 14 kills. "But we couldn't think about that. We had to keep fighting, not worry about their side and do our jobs as best we can."
Lien had 24 kills for Heritage Christian (26-10), which advanced to the semifinals for the second consecutive year.
Caledonia 3, Cook County 0: No. 3 seed Caledonia got off to a fast start and had no trouble defeating Cook County 25-11, 25-13, 25-17.
The Warriors (29-5) started the first set with a 10-1 run and piled up five aces and 11 kills for the set.
"It gave us a lot of confidence right away," senior middle hitter Sam Schroeder said. "We always try and start out strong."
Schroeder led her team with 11 kills. On a particularly lengthy point in the third set, she kept it alive by punching the ball over the net while she was on her stomach. She then helped finish the point with a block at the net.
Caledonia freshman Lydia Lange left in the second set with "a little tweak" to her ankle, according to coach Scott Koepke, but she should be ready for Friday's semifinal match.
For Cook County (22-4), junior Meredith Sutton led her team with nine kills and added seven digs.
Mayer Lutheran 3, Stephen-Argyle 0: Six losses added up to one huge victory for No. 1-seeded Mayer Lutheran.
Crusaders coach Joelle Grimsley created a deliberately brutal schedule, knowing that a few regular-season speed bumps could likely result in a smoother postseason road.
"We developed a challenging schedule to prepare us for the postseason," Grimsley said.
Mayer Lutheran made Grimsley's strategy look prescient, cruising to a three-set victory over Stephen-Argyle 25-17, 25-13, 25-17. Madi Beck had 10 kills and Madison Hucky had 23 set assists, 11 digs and eight kills for Mayer Lutheran (27-6). Stephen-Argyle, making its first tournament appearance, fell to 28-4.
Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 3, Kimball 0: After finishing fourth in the Class 1A tournament last season, Tracy-Milroy-Balaton got off to a good start trying to better that mark this year.
The Panthers (29-7) defeated the Cubs 25-19, 25-13, 25-20, getting 45 kills to only 26 for Kimball. Senior Kendra Ludeman and junior Sydney Lanoue each had 10 kills.
It's the third consecutive state tournament appearance for the Panthers. The Cubs, making their first appearance, finished 20-14.