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Ada Borup's Miki Lee and Haley Boehier defended as Fillmore Central's Taylor Case spiked the ball in Thursday's state quarterfinal match at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Photo: Bruce Bisping * firstname.lastname@example.org
A state tournament of firsts for the Fillmore Central volleyball team included one that the Falcons weren’t so fond of: first severe case of jitters.
Fortunately, it didn’t last long as the Falcons regrouped and rallied from a first-set loss to defeat Ada-Borup 19-25, 25-16, 25-14, 25-21 in the Class 1A quarterfinals Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center.
Becoming the school's first girls' team of any sort to qualify for a state tournament was big. On top of that, Fillmore Central's only losses this season came to Class 3A Rosemount in a September tournament and was seeded No. 1 in the field.
If team members hadn’t felt pressure before, they certainly did Thursday.
“It hit us when we stepped on to the court,” junior setter Morgan Malley said. “It was so exciting to be playing at the Xcel Energy Center. We came every year and watched and said ‘We can play here’ and then, finally we were here. The environment was so new. It just took us awhile to adapt.”
Beginning in the second set, it became clear why Fillmore Central was seeded No. 1. Blessed with an abundance of front line talent and a setter in Malley who knows how to work with those players, the Falcons ripped off three straight victories to take the match.
As if to emphasize their depth, four Fillmore Central players reached double-figures in kills, led by senior hitters Taylor Case (17 kills) and Tori Peterson (13). Malley, using all of her resources, finished with 46 set assists and a huge measure of relief.
“It’s good to get this one behind us and get to the semifinals,” Malley said. “We’ve seen both of the teams that we would play [Win-E-Mac or Nevis] and we beat them both this season, so that gives us a lot of confidence.”
Win-E-Mac, using a balanced attack, shut down Nevis and its star outside hitter, Megan Norby, to sweep the Class 1A quarterfinals match 25-21, 25-20, 25-20.
Shelby Kaster had 15 kills, Korbyn Ross had nine and Karina Morrison chipped in with eight for the Patriots, who were seeded No. 4 in the 1A field. Norby, who entered the tournament with 1,564 career kills, led all hitters with 16 kills but needed 50 attacks to do it.
The Southwest Christian Stars aren’t bound to go away from their strength, and that’s Mackenzie Horkey.
Martin County West (26-7) didn’t have an answer for the Division I outside hitter, who was dominant in a straight-set victory 25-18, 25-16, 25-9. Horkey is headed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
“We played pretty well today as a team,” Horkey said. “Our defense and serve receiving was really good.”
From the outset, the 5-foot-8 Horkey had no problem hitting over or around Maverick blockers. She finished with 26 kills and only 5 errors.
“It was a pretty good performance, but I made a couple of errors,” said Horkey, who also led Southwest Christian (29-5) with 16 digs. “I wasn’t perfect.”
Martin County West finished with 23 kills as a team.
The Vikings are appearing in their fifth consecutive state tournament. They're also headed to the semifinals for the fifth straight year.
With four starters returning from last year’s third-place squad, Minneota (30-3) overpowered Carlton 25-21, 25-8, 25-18. The Vikings have finished third in the state tournament the past three years after being the runner-up in 2009.
Junior middle hitter Taylor Reiss led the Vikings’ quick offensive attack with 16 kills. Senior setter Megan Larson had 32 assists.
Carlton (26-6) is making its first state tournament appearance since 2004