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Moorhead volleyball headed to state semifinals via five-set thriller

ST. PAUL - The Moorhead Spuds saved their best for the end when they knocked off the No. 3 seeded Champlin Park Rebels in five sets at the Minnesota Class 3A state volleyball tournament Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.The Spuds won the first set 2...

Moorhead's Brook Carney (8) celebrates with Callie Ahlgren (left) and Kortney Carney after an opening-round match win over Champlin Park at Thursday's Minnesota Class 3A state volleyball tournament in St. Paul. Photo by Jason Groth / Forum News Service
Moorhead's Brook Carney (8) celebrates with Callie Ahlgren (left) and Kortney Carney after an opening-round match win over Champlin Park at Thursday's Minnesota Class 3A state volleyball tournament in St. Paul. Photo by Jason Groth / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL - The Moorhead Spuds saved their best for the end when they knocked off the No. 3 seeded Champlin Park Rebels in five sets at the Minnesota Class 3A state volleyball tournament Thursday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Spuds won the first set 25-18 before losing 14-25 and 17-25, as the Rebels settled into their next rotation, playing without top hitter Emma Schmidt. But the Spuds responded with a 25-21 win and a 15-9 clinching victory.

“It was just staying confident. I think we got a little shook after that second game,” Moorhead head coach Char Lien said. “We told them to stay within themselves and do what they usually do and good things will happen.”

The Spuds were led by the duo of Lexi Gilbertson and Brook Carney. Gilbertson finished with 19 kills, while Carney ended with 17, including the match-sealing kill, sending the Spuds to their first semifinal since 1996. The Spuds, who were 0-7 in first-round matches since their last state quarterfinal win, will take a 22-9 record into Friday’s 11 a.m. semifinal match against No. 2-seeded and 29-2 Lakeville North.

“We saw where their holes were and started to tell each other what was open,” Gilbertson said. “We kept going with what was successful and exploited their weaknesses.”

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Lien said they made some adjustments in the service game against the Rebels. She said they started attacking different corners, knowing they were out of system.

The Spuds finished with 11 service aces. Gilbertson led the way with four aces, while Brooke Walthall had three. The Spuds had only one service error in 95 total serves.

The Spuds took control in the opening set, racing out to 8-4 and 11-7 leads, before the Rebels rallied back, eventually tying it at 14. Yet, the Spuds closed out the first set, scoring 11 of the final 14 points.

The Rebels settled in with their new rotation, taking sets two and three. Sami Hilley and Jordan Stalpes caught fire for the Rebels. Hilley finished with 17 kills.

Carney said they started to really believe in each other and came together as a team in the fifth set. The Spuds and the Rebels traded points early. The only time Moorhead trailed in the fifth set was when they were behind 3-1. They turned that deficit into a 10-7 lead.

“I think we stuck together. We said we have to get together and push through this,” Gilbertson said. “You get through this match, you can rest later, but right now you leave everything on the floor.”

They did just that, rallying for five of the final six points, securing the 15-9 win. Lien said they are not known for being a tip-happy team, but said her middle hitters did a nice job of mixing things up.

“Each match that you come here, kids are always going to believe they have what it takes,” Lien said. “Kudos to Champlin Park to rally behind. I knew with their change of lineups they were out of system in that first set. We had to keep battling. We have been in a couple five-set matches this year where we had to push from behind. That part helps them have that good stamina. We try to preach that Steady-Eddie mentality of not getting too high or getting too low. All you have to worry about is that next point. They bought into that today.”

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Related Topics: MOORHEADVOLLEYBALL
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