Willmar rebounds to top Bemidji in 8AAA opener
WILLMAR--An ugly finish to the first set didn't have any lingering effects for the Willmar volleyball team in its first section match Friday. Carly Wedel and Cami Sletta had 20 and 17 kills, Esther Grussing had 45 assists and 14 digs and the seco...
WILLMAR-An ugly finish to the first set didn't have any lingering effects for the Willmar volleyball team in its first section match Friday.
Carly Wedel and Cami Sletta had 20 and 17 kills, Esther Grussing had 45 assists and 14 digs and the second-seeded Cardinals topped No. 7 Bemidji 20-25, 25-22, 25-13, 25-17 in the second round of the 8AAA tournament.
Willmar looked like it would win the opener with ease after scoring the first five points and eventually pushing its lead to 12-6.
But the resilient Lumberjacks didn't go away, forcing ties four different times before closing the set with a 7-0 run.
Willmar Coach Traci Grussing felt her team came out a bit too amped, frequently trying to use power in situations where finesse would have been the best approach.
"The first set, I felt like we were just hitting as hard as we could," she said. "We weren't hitting smart."
Things went back-and-forth for much of the second set before Sletta, who struggled with consistency to that point, found a rhythm, blasting kills for Willmar's final three points and evening the match at one.
From that point on, the Cardinals finally began playing like the heavy favorites. They trailed just once the rest of the way, when the Lumberjacks scored the first point of the third set.
Sletta, who helped the Cardinals pull away with back-to-back aces in the third set, said closing the strong second-set finish helped she and her teammates get into a groove.
"We had a lot more energy and we weren't making as many stupid mistakes," she said. "We all just picked it up."
Two wins away from their first section title, things don't get easier for the Cardinals, who host 21-6 Sartell St. Stephen at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The Sabres survived a stiff challenge from St. Cloud Tech Friday, pulling out a 3-2 win.
Though Willmar beat Sartell twice during the regular season, both matches were competitive, with Willmar eeking out a 16-14, fifth-set win in first meeting.
Though a championship run will likely go through top-seed Moorhead, Coach Grussing says no one will be looking past the semifinals.
"It's hard beating a team three times," Coach Grussing said. "They're a scary team because they've played us close every time."
Willmar 3, Bemidji 1
Bemidji (13-16)............................ 25 22 13 17
Willmar (22-6).............................. 20 25 25 25
Stats not provided
Serving (aces): Cami Sletta 3, Esther Grussing 1, Heidi Sellmann 3... Set assists: Grussing 45, Addie Erickson 5... Hitting (kills): Abby Volk 2, Sletta 17, Carly Wedel 20, Emma Rosen 2, Grussing 6, Grace Marti 3, Hannah Gallagher 10, Sellmann 5... Blocking (aces): Volk 2, Sletta 2, Wedel 1, Grussing 2, Marti 1, Sellmann 3... Digs (5 or more): Addie Erickson 26, Sletta 11, Emma Rosen 9, Grussing 14, Gallagher 9