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NLS rolls into state

Taylor Thompsen of New London-Spicer, upper right, makes sure a save attempt from Sauk Centre's Kali Peschel, left, doesn't get over the net during their Section 6AA volleyball match Saturday at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph. (Tribune photo by T.J. Bartelt)1 / 3
Cassie Ziemer of New London-Spicer, right, attacks the Sauk Centre defense during their Section 6AA volleyball match Saturday in St. Joseph. (Tribune photo by T.J. Bartelt)2 / 3
Hannah Setterberg of New London-Spicer saves an errant pass during their Section 6AA volleyball match against Sauk Centre Saturday at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph. (Tribune photo by T.J. Bartelt)3 / 3

ST. JOSEPH - New London-Spicer is on a mission and the Section 6AA volleyball title is just one step toward a larger goal.

The Wildcats (32-1) didn't jump up and down screaming and celebrating after beating Sauk Centre 25-15, 25-18, 25-20 Saturday at the College of St. Benedict. They didn't cry tears of joy, hold up the section championship trophy or point an index finger to the sky.

"We were excited, but we're really looking forward to state and seeing what we can do," said senior setter Justine Dammermann, one of a handful of NLS players who have been on the varsity squad since eighth grade.

New London-Spicer was seeded No. 4 for the Class AA tournament and will open state Thursday against Hibbing at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Wildcats started the match with an attitude: try and hit this. Dammermann served the Wildcats to an 8-0 lead with four aces and those easy points seemed to pile up as the game went on. NLS had seven aces to take the first game, 25-15.

"We knew that was something we had to do," NLS co-coach Mimi Knutson said about serving aggressively. "It was one of our tactics for our offense and our girls executed it well."

Being aggressive didn't end with serving. The Wildcats continually pounded the ball at the Sauk Centre defense, which made the Mainstreeters more tentative and forced more errors.

"Sauk has a great offensive team and we knew if we didn't execute our offense, they would be able to take us over and we would have to play more defense," Knutson said. "With us executing, they were on the back of their heels."

Sauk Centre's only lead in the entire match lasted for five points in the second game. The Wildcats went through a small slump with some hitting and receiving errors and the Mainstreeters held a 13-10 advantage. It was quickly erased by two kills from senior Taylor Thompsen and another from junior Alanna Dietz.

"There were times that we thought we didn't look like the team we should be," Knutson said. "This group of girls seems to do what they have to do at the right time."

Thompsen dominated the net in the final game. She powered the ball through Sauk Centre's blocks, hit line drives for kills from the back row and even tipped a couple balls to open spots in the defense. She finished with a match-high 15 kills in 33-of-35 attempts, plus served two aces.

Senior Karli Wendlandt added 10 kills for the Wildcats and had two kills in the last three points of the match. Senior Cassie Ziemer followed with nine kills and three ace blocks, Dammermann had 35 set assists, senior Hannah Setterberg collected 10 digs and Dietz had three ace blocks.

So a section championship is just another objective for New London-Spicer. Knutson thought the coaching staff showed more excitement than the players, but maybe that's not a bad thing.

"No matter if they are down, they keep their cool. If they're up, they're keeping their cool. I think that's a part of what got them here," she said.

NLS 3, Sauk Centre 0

NL-Spicer 25 25 25

Sauk Centre 15 18 20

(Key: good-attempts-aces)

New London-Spicer

Serving: Justine Dammermann 16-18-4, Taylor Thompsen 15-17-2, Cassie Ziemer 13-13-0, Karli Wendlandt 3-5-0, Jenna Moritz 12-12-1, Karsee Knutson 9-9-2 ... Setting: Dammermann 72-74-35, Knutson 5-5-3 ... Hitting: Dammermann 12-12-0, Thompsen 33-35-15, Ziemer 18-20-9, Wendlandt 22-24-10, Alanna Dietz 9-10-2, Knutson 13-15-5 ... Blocking (aces): Dammermann 1, Thompsen 1, Ziemer 3, Dietz 3 ... Digs: Dammermann 7, Thompsen 8, Wendlandt 9, Moritz 5, Hannah Setterberg 10, Dietz 2, Knutson 2

Sauk Centre

Serving: Katlyn Kaiser 6-6-0, Amber Kollman 8-8-0, Emily Petermeier 0-1-0, Kali Peschel 9-9-0, Savana Weller 8-9-1, Rachel Gruber 6-6-1, Krista Primus 7-7-0, Jenna Beste 8-9-2 ... Setting (assists): Kaiser 14, Weller 2, Shelby Deters 1 ... Hitting (kills): Kaiser 1, Peschel 5, Weller 5, Gruber 2, Kourtney Nelson 1, Deters 3, Primus 2 ... Blocking (total): Peschel 5, Weller 1, Gruber 2, Deters 2, Primus 1 ... Digs: Kaiser 6, Kollman 4, Petermeier 1, Weller 11, Gruber 3, Deters 3, Primus 6, Beste 1