In its nine previous trips to the state tournament, Faribault's Bethlehem Academy has not lost before the championship match. The Cardinals continued that streak Thursday, beating Martin County West 25-13, 25-12, 25-7 in the Class 1A quarterfinals, a run of 19 consecutive pre-finals victories.
"We make sure our team is ready when they get here," said coach Franz Boelter. "Look at our schedule. We play the best teams in the state so that when our girls get here, they're not going to see anything they haven't seen before."
Sophomore outside hitter Payton Schultz, who had 25 digs, and senior middle hitter Maddie Borwege, who provided 16 kills, led Bethlehem Academy.
Win-E-Mac 3, Nevis 2: After two years of miserable draws, Win-E-Mac coach Lynette Kaster breathed a sigh of relief when the Patriots found out they would be playing Nevis in the quarterfinals.
"In the last two years, we drew Minneota and Bethlehem Academy in the first round," she said. "Nevis is a good team, but we can play with them."
It was a close loss to Bethlehem Academy in the 2011 quarterfinals that was the catalyst to Win-E-Mac's 25-23, 19-25, 19-25, 25-18, 15-11 victory over Nevis. The youthful Patriots, with just two seniors, came into Thursday's match brimming with confidence, knowing they could succeed in a state tournament atmosphere.
"We have a lot of young players, but we have some great leaders in Korbyn Ross [20 kills] and Shelby Kaster [19 kills],
Minneota 3, North Woods 0: A slow start has become normal for Minneota, and it did little to deter the Vikings in their first-round match against North Woods. The Vikings fell behind early in all three sets but quickly regrouped to breeze past the Grizzlies 3-0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-15).
"The games started out slow, but we fought back strong," Minneota's Taylor Reiss said after contributing 18 kills, eight digs and four blocks. "We didn't expect that easy of a game."
Setter Megan Larson contributed 19 assists and five digs for section 3 champ Minneota. North Woods' Tessa Mankus and Darby Youngstrom had seven kills apiece.
Southwest Christian 3, Underwood 0: After a long first point to open the match, Southwest Christian setter Katie Lubben thought it would be a long afternoon. For at least a set, she was right.
The Stars struggled to outlast Underwood 25-20 to win the opener, but they weren't challenged much the rest of the way in a straight sets victory, 25-20, 25-11, 25-17.
"They were definitely down," Lubben said about Underwood after its close first-set loss. "They kind of let up in the second set halfway through, and we were really consistent."
Lubben led the Stars with 44 assists, MacKenzie Horkey had 22 kills, 14 digs and Abby Vandergalien added 14 kills and 12 digs. Carly Masloski led Underwood with 14 kills and six digs.