ST. PETER -- A year ago the BOLD Warriors volleyball team won 23 matches but lost to Marshall in the Section 2AA championship.
That matchup was badly weighted toward the Tigers, one of the top programs in Minnesota and the 2009 Class AA state champions.
This year's reappointment of teams based on enrollment dropped the Bird Island-Olivia-Lake Lillian school district a notch into Class A.
"I feel this is more the class where we belong," said senior hitter Nikki Neisen in the aftermath of the Warriors' impressive 27-25, 25-23, 25-10 win over United South Central on Saturday evening at Gustavus Adolphus College.
"We had a real chance tonight show what we can do," said Neisen, who had 11 kills.
The Warriors showcased their abilities on the Gus Young court in dramatic fashion. The West Central South Conference champs were down 7-1 early and 20-14 late in Game 1 only to win 27-25 as Baylie Kubesh served out.
Game 2 took an even greater swing. The Rebels were cruising with a 22-15 lead when Neisen took the serving line and BOLD rattled off seven straight points and won nine of the last 10 for the 25-23 victory.
The Rebels, who had played so well to that point, couldn't recover. Their defense disintegrated as BOLD rolled to a 17-5 lead in the finale.
With Samantha Luepke supplying match point, BOLD had secured its first trip to the state volleyball tournament.
While football, wrestling and basketball have provided state trips and even championships along this section of U.S. Highway 212, volleyball -- whether at Olivia or Bird Island -- was closed out of the big stage. Not so any longer.
The Warriors play Minneota (26-6) at 3 p.m. on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in the state quarterfinals.
BOLD head coach Paula Dunn, who played her high school volleyball for the Henning Hornets, has been leading the Warriors for eight years.
This edition showed little promise starting 3-6. But since a 3-1 loss Sept. 13 at Olivia to Benson, the team has gone 18-2. The losses were both to Class AA teams, including state qualifier Sauk Centre.
"We thought we'd have a good team, but we had a lot of young players and it just took some extra work to learn (the system)," said Dunn.
She credited senior hitters Tyann Caspers and Neisen for setting the pace against USC. Caspers had a match-high 16 kills, plus 4 aces serves, 3 ace blocks and 20 digs.
The Warriors were so sharp they didn't miss-hit a serve. Baylie Kubesh and Carly Sigurdson each delivered 3 aces.
Kubesh and Luepke combined for 40 assists. Mallerie Steffel added 6 kills and 12 digs.
USC (14-12-1) had won seven straight matches to reach the final. Allie Voigt led the Rebels with 15 kills.
State tournament regular Minneota got the No. 3 seed while upstart BOLD goes in unseeded.
BOLD 3, USC 0
USC (14-12-2) 25 23 10
BOLD (21-8) 27 25 25
United South Central
Serving: Katie Ovrebo 10-10-0, Kristie Ovrebo 7-7-0, Cassidy Latuske 7-8-2 ... Setting (assists): Ka. Ovrebo 22... Hitting (kills): Allie Voigt 15, Latusek 9, Anissa Janzig 9 ... Blocking (aces): Janzig 7 ... Digs: Ka. Ovrebo 13, Kr. Ovrebo 16
Serving: Baylie Kubesh 11-11-3, Carly Sigurdson 12-12-3, Mallerie Steffel 9-9-0, Tyann Caspers 15-15-4, Samantha Luepke 6-6-0, Nikki Neisen 10-10-1 ... Setting (assists): Kubesh 21, Luepke 19 ... Hitting: Kubesh 16-18-6, Sigurdson 15-17-5, Mallerie Steffel 16-8-6, Caspers 28-30-16, Luepke 10-11-3, Neisen 26-27-11 ... Blocking (aces): Steffel 1, Caspers 3, Neisen 1 ... Digs: Neisen 11, Caspers 20, Steffel 12, Sigurdson 11