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Anoka players celebrate after beating St. Francis

Anoka's Kelci Green jumped toward the net to play a ball with the season on the line and saw something unexpected.

"I didn't see a block," Green said, "so I swung away,"

Her kill clinched the Class 3A, Section 7 championship against St. Francis 24-26, 25-9, 23-25, 25-18, 15-10, sending the Tornadoes to state for the first time since 2003.

The Saints beat Anoka 3-2 on Aug. 28.

Nerves and big-game inexperience led to sloppy moments for both teams throughout Saturday's match at Andover High School.

St. Francis won Game 1 on Maggie Ewen's touch kill at the net. The Tornadoes roared back to run away with Game 2 25-9. Two late Ewen kills helped clinch Game 3 25-23 and put St. Francis ahead 2-1.

Anoka (23-7) jumped out to an 18-8 lead in the fourth set, relying on Kelci and twin sister Kassi's strong play in the middle. But St. Francis (21-9) battled back with an 8-0 surge that forced the Tornadoes into gut-check mode.

"We told ourselves to regroup and calm down because we were still up by a lot," junior Megan Lindenfelser said. Anoka closed out the game on a 7-2 run.

The momentum carried over to the fifth set, in which Anoka went ahead 4-0 en route to clinching a state tournament appearance.

Lindenfelser said her team broke down the deciding match into "mini-games to five. We got to five and we got to 10 first and that's when we knew we had this."

DAVID LA VAQUE

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