After losing the first two sets to top-seeded Stewartville on Friday, Concordia Academy-Roseville grabbed momentum, coming back to win the next two. But the Tigers were not going to let an upset stand.
Stewartville found energy in the deciding set, according to coach John Dzubay, and came away with the five-set victory Friday in a Class 2A volleyball semifinal at Xcel Energy Center.
"I just put my entire heart on the court to win that game," said Erin Lamb, a Stewartville junior middle hitter.
The scores were close and the sets seemed even closer than they indicated: 25-21, 27-25, 23-25, 23-25, 15-7.
Lamb and Concordia Academy junior outside hitter Kira Fallert, teammates at Northern Lights Volleyball, seemed to match each other kill for kill throughout the match. They each had 25 through three sets and each finished with 32.
"You have to, at some point in the game, go to a player that can put the ball away," Dzubay said. "And boy, Erin put it away."
The 32 kills for Lamb "would be her best-ever," Dzubay said. She also finished with 20 digs. Lily Welch, a Tigers senior outside hitter, added 15 digs.
The Tigers (29-4) registered 81 kills as a team while the fifth-seeded Beacons (26-7) had 67.
"They have a super-strong offense," Fallert said. "I thought we did a good job adjusting to them."
North Branch 3, Belle Plaine 2: It took five sets this time, but North Branch will get the chance to defend its Class 2A crown.
The third-seeded Vikings, the defending state champions, beat unseeded Belle Plaine 25-19, 18-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-9 in the second Class 2A semifinal.
"Our five-game matches last year gave us some grit," North Branch coach Mike Selbitschka said. "We had to earn every point that we got."
After the Vikings took the first set, Belle Plaine didn't let the first set balloon into a bigger deficit. Even when the Vikings got within a couple points at 18-16 in the second set, Belle Plaine finished the set with a 7-2 run.
The Vikings (29-4) got back on track to take a 2-1 match lead with plenty of kills from their heavy hitters, senior Cianna Selbitschka, who had 28 kills and 20 digs, and Paige Peaslee with 15 kills.
The Vikings tried to rally from an early hole in the fourth set with a 12-4 run to get within a point trailing 24-23 before Belle Plaine (23-10) forced the fifth set. Then North Branch found its momentum again, though the Tigers got as close as 10-8.
"We had a nice run to come back and get close, but a short set like that, you don't have a lot of time to come back," Belle Plaine coach Rich Foust said.
It's the third consecutive season the Vikings will play in the championship match; they finished second in 2017.
The Tigers nearly knocked off a pair of seeded teams two days in a row after they took out 2-seed Marshall in the quarterfinals. Mikayla Coops led the Tigers with 24 kills on Friday.