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State Volleyball: BBE calmly handles business

ST. PAUL — The Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa volleyball team could easily be mistaken as a state-seasoned group.

The Jaguars were relaxed, loose and all smiles as they prepared for their Class A state quarterfinal match with New Life Academy.

On the court, it's hard to fathom this is a school eight years removed from its last state appearance.

"All our girls were pretty excited," said senior outside hitter Allison Gruber. "We definitely were nervous; don't be fooled. It's amazing to be here and it's very overwhelming, but we do really good on counting on each other.

"When one of us is nervous, we look at each other and be like, 'Hey, we got this. There's nothing you can't do.' Before the games, we like to get loose and have fun and that's what helps us play well."

With plenty of faith in their teammates and their own skills, the third-seeded Jaguars handled business against the unseeded Eagles with a three-set sweep, 25-12, 25-20, 25-15.

BBE set the tone from the onset, going on a 10-0 run midway through the first set en route to a convincing 1-0 lead. The Jaguars hit for a .387 attacking percentage, led by six kills in the opening set by Allison Gruber.

"The way we came out is what we tried to do all year long. These girls just feed off energy and you could see it out there," said BBE head coach Kevin Weller. "Once they got that energy going, they have a lot of fun with it. I just try to stay out of the way."

"We didn't start with our best stuff today. We showed some nerves," said Eagles head coach Wally Bomgren. "Being that we were here last year, I thought we would be a little smoother. They probably deserved to win today. ... They had a little bit more of their 'A' game than we did today."

From there, the Jaguars' balance was too much for New Life Academy to corral as five BBE hitters finished with six or more kills in the match.

"I feel like I just had to move the ball around and I had to make sure that blockers weren't there," said setter Karsee Kampsen, who finished with 37 set assists, putting her two away from hitting the 2,000 career set assists mark. "It's hard sometimes but I know the girls can do it and they're always doing great.

The Eagles looked revitalized in the second set, cutting the Jaguars' lead to 19-17 before they clinched the set. And at the start of the third, New Life Academy showed why it belonged in the tournament with a 7-0 opening run.

"Something that set the tempo for us was just being positive after each point and playing it point for point," said Eagles setter Bethany Breiholz.

Even in the midst of a seven-point deficit, BBE was calm. Trailing 12-4, the Jaguars stormed back with 13 straight points for a 17-12 advantage that the Eagles could not rebound from.

"The captains just really stepped up and told us that we can do it," Kampsen said. "They gave us energy and we all worked together great. Everyone played their role and it worked."

At 3 p.m. Friday, BBE will face off with unseeded Medford, which shook up the Class A bracket after beating second-seeded and defending state champion Meyer Lutheran five sets.

BBE 3, New Life Academy 0

New Life (19-11) 12 20 15

BBE (27-4) 25 25 25

New Life Academy

Serving (aces): Bethany Breiholz 2, Makenzie Roettger 1, Sophie Heruth 1, Hannah George 1 ... Set assists: Breiholz 21, Kate Rogers 2 ... Hitting (kills): Eli Wiertsema 6, Rogers 6, Roettger 6, Lauren Schumacher 3, Breiholz 2 ... Blocking (aces): Roettger 1/2, Sophie Heruth 1/2 ... Digs (5 or more): Rogers 12, Hannah George 10, Wiertsema 7, Breiholz 5

BBE

Serving (aces): Karsee Kampsen 2, Brittany Berge 2, Nicole Thonvold 1, Allison Gruber 1 ... Set assists: Kampsen 37, Grace Illies 2, Emily Kern 2, Katherine Mastey 1 ... Hitting (kills): Gruber 16, Mastey 10, Emily Knight 7, Illies 6, Berge 6, Kampsen 1 ... Blocking (aces): Berge 2 1/2, Knight 2, Illies 1/2, Gruber 1/2, Mastey 1/2 ... Digs (5 or more): Gruber 11, Kern 11, Berge 7, Illies 6