Medford players celebrated a point scored against Mayer Lutheran in the first set Thursday afternoon. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky ¥ email@example.com
Unseeded Medford stepped onto the court Thursday as volleyball state tournament rookies. The Tigers left the court with a 3-2 upset victory of two-time defending Class 1A champion Mayer Lutheran.
“Medford has always been seen as the underdog in everything,” said junior Emma Kniefel, who had a game-high 21 kills. “I don’t think it’s hit any of us yet.”
The Tigers (28-5) came back for a 25-18, 14-25, 21-25, 25-15, 19-17 victory over No. 2 seed Mayer Lutheran (21-10). Her team trailing 2-1, Medford coach Missy Underdahl talked with players about how they deserved to be at the tournament and weren’t going down without a fight.
“We started getting really complacent with our offense,” Underdahl said. “We weren’t moving the ball around.”
Needing to stay alive in the fourth set, the Tigers jumped to a 6-0 lead and stayed out front to force a final set. It was back-and-forth near the end, too, before two kills from sophomore Kinsey Cronin won the match.
“I felt pressure for sure, but I just tried to not show it,” said Mayer Lutheran junior Olivia Tjernagel, who finished with 16 kills and five digs.
Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley described the match as simply “up and down, tight, bad, good, bad, good, bad, bad, good.”
“We didn’t do two good things in a row,” Grimsley said. “We could never get a run. We didn’t finish today.”
Lizzy Gillingham of Minneota had her shot blocked by Madalyn Erp (13), and Annika Frost of New York Mills. Photo: Jerry Holt, Star Tribune
It took until the third set for Minneota to look like the team that earned the No. 1 seed in the Class 1A field, but even a Vikings’ team not at its best is a formidable foe.
Minneota battled through two sets, then dominated New York Mills in the third and final set, advancing to the Class 1A semifinals with a 25-14, 26-24, 25-7 victory.
Lydia Sussner, a Ms. Volleyball finalist, had 15 kills for the Vikings and Morgan Kockelman notched 29 set assists.
After their comfortable first-set victory, New York Mills made a run in the second set before falling 26-24. It was a lull Minneota coach Hayley Fruin didn’t see coming.
“Explain momentum for me and how it switches sides,” Fruin said. “I have yet to figure that out.”
After pulling out the second set victory, the Vikings (34-1) crushed the Eagles (29-3) in the third set, looking like the team many expected.
“On paper, yes, we’re the No. 1 team but we have to play like that at all times,” Fruin said. “We’ve got to remember to play to our level until we win three sets.’’
Ada-Borup's Elle Scherfenberg (5) and Mariah McKeever celebrated their win over Carlton.
For the first half of their match, Ada-Borup/Norman County West and Carlton were as matched as a pair of socks. The two teams split the first two sets by identical 27-25 scores.
Things changed in the third set thanks to a 10-3 run by Ada-Borup, which went on to win the set 25-20. The Cougars built on that inertia and routed Carlton in the fourth set for a 27-25, 25-27, 25-20, 25-12 victory.
Kora Kritzberger has 21 kills and 18 digs, and Bailee Brommenschenkel added 17 kills for the No. 4-seeded Cougars (31-1).
Abigail Mickle led Carlton (28-3) with 17 kills.
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa's Allison Gruber (8) spiked the ball against New Life Academy. Photo: Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune
The No. 3 seed from Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa won the first two sets without a problem before getting down 7-0 to start the third. Again, no problem.
The Jaguars (27-4) responded with a 13-0 run to coast to a 25-12, 25-20, 25-15 sweep over unseeded New Life Academy (19-11).
Senior Allison Gruber led the way with 16 kills and 11 digs. As a team, the Jaguars had 46 kills to just 23 for New Life.
Gruber credited sophomore setter Karsee Kampsen for the run in the third. “She served well, and that’s what really turned our game around,” Gruber said.
Coach Kevin Weller praised Gruber as well, saying she “doesn’t give herself enough credit there. She’s been one of our team leaders, and she got in that huddle and she just started talking to everybody: ‘We’re fine. … All it takes is one ball, and we’re good to go.’ ”