Minutes after their hopes for a Class 2A title defense came to an end Friday, all the Stewartville players could do was smile and shake their heads.
Senior Karrisa Kime called the match "fun." Jenna Willenborg said she "couldn't be happier" with her team's play.
"We've seen a lot of good hitters. But this,'' Stewartville coach Scott Willenborg said of his team's opponent, Belle Plaine, "is just the best team. ... Sometimes, there's just not much you can do about it."
That's how impressive top-seeded Belle Plaine looked in rolling past Stewartville 25-19, 25-12, 20-25, 25-18 in the first Class 2A semifinal match at Xcel Energy Center.
The Tigers' three-headed attack — junior Mariena Hayden and seniors Dakotah Poitra and Kaylee Hentges — combined for 52 kills, and Belle Plaine overpowered the defending champs to earn the program's first title game appearance, against Concordia Academy.
"It's really exciting, because every year we've ... just missed," said Hayden, who is playing in her fourth state tournament. "It's nice coming out on the other side of this game."
Hayden had a dominant final set, bookending an early 6-0 run with a pair of blistering shots through the Stewartville defense. She finished with 27 kills.
"We're going to enjoy the moment," Belle Plaine coach Cassie Koch said, "and at the end of the day [Saturday], we'll put it all out there."
Concordia Academy 3, Rocori 0: Concordia Academy coach Kim Duis said her team has a simple formula: serve tough and play good defense. That's what the No. 2 Beacons did against third-seeded Rocori, finishing with 52 digs and no service errors in a clean 25-10, 25-21, 25-20 sweep.
"This is just how we can play,'' Duis said. "We played pretty steady through the whole game. Nothing gets us rattled."
Erin Fallert led the Beacons with 11 kills and Elisabeth Tramm finished with 30 assists, as Concordia never appeared in danger of losing a set.
Eleanor Holthaus led Rocori with 11 kills, but the Spartans, who lost just once in the regular season, couldn't muster much of an attack against the Concordia defenders.
Concordia plays Belle Plaine on Saturday with a chance for its first title since Duis was a junior on the team in 1987. The Beacons handed No. 1 Belle Plaine one of its three losses on the season — albeit by a point-differential tiebreaker after the teams split two sets on Sept. 25.
"I still think it, like, hasn't really registered yet," Fallert said. "But we're ready."