A blowout first-set victory felt right to Sauk Centre. The Mainstreeters entered the Class 2A state volleyball tournament as the only undefeated team in all three classes, and they played nearly perfect in a 25-4 opener against St. Croix Lutheran.
Then the magnitude of the state tournament set in Thursday night at Xcel Energy Center. Sauk Centre coach Jim Klaphake called the first set a fluke after St. Croix Lutheran responded with a 25-22 victory in the second set.
"Coach reminded us this is not a cakewalk," said senior middle hitter Macy Weller, who finished with 33 kills. "That was a rude awakening for the rest of the tournament."
The awakening worked, rallying the Mainstreeters to finish off the Crusaders in the next two sets for a 25-4, 22-25, 25-18, 25-18 victory.
Sauk Centre setter Jena Klaphake dished out 48 assists and had 12 digs. Afton Sobasky's 14 kills, 11 assists, 21 digs and Kira Grev's 11 kills and 18 digs led St. Croix Lutheran.
Belle Plaine 3, Thief River Falls 0: Trailing 24-22 in the first set, the Tigers calmly prepared for what could have been set point. The poised approach gave them life for another point, and another, until they held a 26-25 advantage over Thief River Falls. With a chance to finish the comeback, Mariena Hayden slammed down one of her game-high 16 kills to give Belle Plaine the edge and the momentum for what would become a straight set, 27-25, 25-17, 25-17 victory.
"I think that really helped us to get the momentum," Belle Plaine senior Kirsten Johnson said about the early rally. "[Thief River Falls] came out really well, we were surprised. But we picked it up really fast."
After the impressive first-set victory, the Tigers had few problems. Johnson finished the third set by serving the final seven points. A service ace got Belle Plaine the first of those points. Hayden got the last on her final kill of the night.
Haley Fogarty and Jordan Going each added 10 kills for the Tigers, and Forgarty led the team with 16 digs. Shelby Norlin's 25 assists and 11 digs led Thief River Falls.
Marshall 3, Mora 0: The No. 1-seeded Tigers enjoyed a nice warmup in its first-round match. The Tigers never trailed in the first set on their way to the 25-11, 25-9, 25-10 sweep of Mora.
Six Tigers contributed four or more kills, led by Kenzie Beekman's 10 and Sydney Griffin's nine. Griffin also had 19 assists and Rachel Sanow 11. Hannah Bennett had 10 digs for the Tigers. Stephanie Cannon led Mora with six kills and five digs.
Caledonia 3, Maple Lake 0: Though the difference was obvious, Caledonia chose to look past it at first.
"We just go out there and do our best. We don't look at size," Warriors 6-2 middle hitter Emma Lange said before opening up a bit more. "We knew were a bit bigger than them, and we took advantage of that."
Caledonia used the size and power difference to advance with a 25-12, 25-21, 25-9 victory.
Lange finished with 17 kills and 13 digs and Maria Fruechte had 13 kills and six digs to lead the attack. Setter Taylor Winjum had 35 assists and 10 digs.