NLS falls in state opener
ST. PAUL -- New London-Spicer looked like a team out of sorts in a state Class AA quarterfinal volleyball loss to Hibbing Thursday.
The Wildcats (32-2) fell to the Bluejackets (21-11) 28-26, 16-25, 22-25, 25-21, 15-11 at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Hibbing gets the ungracious task of meeting No. 1-seed Marshall in the semifinals at 5 p.m. today. NL-Spicer will play Wadena-Deer Creek in the consolation bracket, also at 5 p.m. today.
The team that beat up on Sauk Centre in the Section 6AA championship match last weekend came out with a few signals crossed, according to co-coach Mimi Knutson.
"I think we weren't flowing the way we can and expect to do. We just couldn't put everything together," she said. "We couldn't get the blocks to the right spot, some our hitters were off at different times."
That's not to take away from the fact that the teams played five games, with only one decided by more than four points.
The Bluejackets had answers in most games for whatever New London-Spicer had to throw at them.
The Wildcats were picking up a couple of points with a back row attack, but Hibbing adjusted and put its middle blocker up at the net and grabbed more than a couple of ace blocks.
"We work on backline attacks," said Hibbing coach Gail Nucech. "We're not always in the best defensive position. Sometimes we play the perimeter instead of squeezing the middle."
The strong, aggressive serving NL-Spicer showed in the postseason didn't get to be a factor Thursday.
"We served well, maybe not as hard at times," NLS co-coach Margaret Essler said.
After the Wildcats won the third game to take a 2-1 lead, Hibbing went with its big gun, 6-foot-1 senior Kate Lange. Lange was all over the court for the Bluejackets. She had eight kills in the fourth game, including one left-handed and eight more in the deciding fifth game, including two of the last three points. She finished with 32 kills and two ace blocks.
Senior Taylor Thompsen helped spark the Wildcats to the third-game win with nine of her team-high 25 kills, but she had only five in the fourth game and three in the final game.
"I don't know if it was nerves," Knutson said about her team's play. "They (Hibbing) executed a great offense that threw us to many different areas that we're not used to being thrown to."
Senior Karli Wendlandt added 14 kills for the Wildcats. Senior Cassie Ziemer had 22 digs and classmate Justine Dammermann added 45 set assists.
Hibbing senior Laicee Grahek served four aces, had 16 kills and 32 digs. Courtney Wirtanen collected 33 set assists.
Hibbing 3, New London-Spicer 2
Hibbing 28 16 22 25 15
NLS 26 25 25 21 11
Serving: Laicee Grahek 19-19-4, Taylor Varichak 18-20-0, Ebony Gray 16-17-0, Kate Lange 14-17-2, Courtney Wirtanen 22-22-1, Gabby Jola 10-10-0 ... Setting: Grahek 2-2-2, Varichak 3-3-0, Dory Johnson 6-7-2, Gray 5-5-0, Lange 36-36-11, Wirtanen 114-114-33, Jola 16-16-6, Morgan Anderson 6-6-0 ... Hitting: Grahek 36-40-16, Varichak 17-19-2, Johnson 1-2-0, Gray 12-16-2, Lange 77-87-32, Wirtanen 20-23-5, Anderson 3-3-0 ... Blocking (aces): Grahek 1, Varichak 1, Johnson 1, Gray 2, Lange 2, Wirtanen 1 ... Digs: Grahek 32, Varichak 9, Gray 8, Lange 12, Wirtanen 15, Jola 11
Serving: Taylor Thompsen 8-11-0, Jenna Moritz 21-21-1, Justine Dammermann 22-22-2, Cassie Ziemer 18-18-2, Karsee Knutson 15-15-1, Karli Wendlandt 21-22-2 ... Setting: Hannah Setterberg 5-5-1, Thompsen 9-9-2, Moritz 4-4-0, Dammermann 134-134-45, Ziemer 6-6-3, Alanna Dietz 4-4-1, Knutson 21-21-5, Wendlandt 7-7-1 ... Hitting: Setterberg 1-1-0, Thompsen 50-61-25, Moritz 1-1-0, Dammermann 19-21-5, Ziemer 24-34-8, Dietz 15-16-8, Knutson 16-17-4, Wendlandt 38-50-14 ... Blocking (aces): Ziemer 2, Knutson 1, Wendlandt 1 ... Digs: Setterberg 6, Thompsen 14, Moritz 10, Dammermann 15, Ziemer 22, Dietz 3, Knutson 10, Wendlandt 15