Jaguars Volleyball stunned by NevisSwept by tough-serving Tigers in 5A finals
Ranked number seven in the final three Class A state polls of the season, having just knocked off sixth-ranked Bertha-Hewitt two nights before, the Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa Jaguars Volleyball team seemed poised for their third straight state tournament trip.
Prior to the Section 5A championship match against Nevis, who the Jaguars swept in the finals in 2008, Coach Kevin Weller stressed with his team that getting to the state tournament involved more than defeating Bertha-Hewitt. His warning was stern, "Nevis has a bone to pick with us."
Showing how true Coach Weller's statement was, the Nevis Tigers proceeded to pick apart the Jaguars' vaunted defense with cutthroat efficiency, in an effort that did not let up through a 70-minute, three game sweep.
The telling stat when the dust settled: three ace blocks for the Jaguars against Nevis, while they stuffed 10 attacks in each of their three sub-section matches.
The section final loss cannot overshadow what was an incredible comeback in the Sub-Section 5A-West championship against Bertha-Hewitt. After taking a beating in a 25-12 game one loss, the Jaguars overcame a 17-11 deficit in game two to win 25-23. A 28-26 win in game three ultimately propelled them to a 3-1 match win for their sixth straight sub-section championship.
Three senior starters graduate from the team, Rachel Anderson, Lauren Anderson, and Shannon Gruber. Beyond that, the Jaguars (27-6 final record) have an outstanding core returning, as they set their sights on another state tournament berth in 2010.
In order to make their eighth straight sub-section title berth, the Jaguars had to deal with the best-ever Kimball Cubs team, a rival in the Central Minnesota Conference.
The Jaguars came out strong and led through the entire first game, after being fueled by three kills from Maggie Gruber for a 6-2 lead. Twice the Cubs would get within one point, but the Jaguars responded each time.
After taking game one 25-18, the Jaguars had to fight in game two. Their 4-1 lead dissipated into a neck-and-neck battle, as they fell to an 11-10 deficit. Strong hitting by Rachel Anderson helped them to a 25-21 win.
The Jaguars coasted in game three, pouncing on the Cubs with four ace blocks while taking a 14-2 lead in a 25-13 win.
B-B-E stats: Shannon Gruber 1 ace serve 6 kills 7 digs, Brittany Roelike 2 ace serves (14-14 serving) 6 kills 1 block, Julie Hieserich 28 set assists, Anna Marthaler 16-16 serving 4 digs, Raeann Sorenson 13-13 serving 13 digs, Taylor Braegelman 1 ace serve 6 digs, Rachel Anderson 13 kills 3 blocks, Lauren Anderson 1 kill 2 blocks, Maggie Gruber 12 kills 4 blocks, Kelsey Kampsen 1 dig.
Game one turned into a see-saw affair after the Jaguars took a 3-0 lead on a kill and block from Shannon Gruber. Seven ties and three lead changes followed after the Bears tied it at 5-5. A kill by Lauren Anderson for a 12-11 lead was the last score the
Jaguars earned in game one, though, as Bertha-Hewitt proceeded to go on a tear.
A 14-0 run ended game one, leaving the Jaguars nothing short of shell-shocked. Maggie Gruber said, "We were all in disbelief, we didn't know what was going on."
After a heart-to-heart discussion between Coach Weller and the team, the Jaguars still showed signs of rust in game two. Runs of 6-0 and 4-0 helped put the Bears on top 17-11. The outlook was grim.
Two straight kills by Gruber fired up the team, as the Jaguars trailed by two. Helped by strong serving by freshmen Taylor Braegelman, the Jaguars then went on top 20-19. After a 20-20 tie, a 40 second volley followed, ending with a thunderous kill by Rachel Anderson. Another dizzying 40-plus volley followed near the end of the 25-23 win.
Game three unfolded with the Jaguars building a 17-12 lead after seven ties played out. A block by Brittany Roelike, two kills and a block from Maggie Gruber, and an Anna Marthaler ace serve put the Jaguars up 17-12. The Jaguars were crashing to the floor, displaying outstanding digging to fuel the rally.
Bertha-Hewitt then heated up and tied the game 21-21. They ultimately went up 24-22, putting the Jaguars' backs to the wall. Excellent digging kept their chances alive, with a kill from Maggie Gruber making a 24-24 tie.
Two game point situations followed for the Bears, but the Jaguars responded both times with kills from Gruber, with her final attack ending the game in favor of B-B-E, 28-26.
The teams traded the lead three times before a kill and block from Gruber put the Jaguars up 15-11. They were on a roll and maintained a four to six point lead the rest of the way, winning 25-21.
Sophomore libero Raeann Sorenson, who led the team with 19 digs, said, "Our defense really stepped it up tonight. We played amazing, and the fans really got us pumped up."
Coach Weller elaborated about the turnaround midway through the match, "Our leadership really stepped up, they took it on their shoulders and said we can't go down two games here. We started getting up quicker in the offense, that seemed to turn things around."
B-B-E stats: S. Gruber 6 kills 15 digs, Roelike 2 ace serves 2 kills 6 digs, Hieserich 36 set assists 8 digs, Marthaler 10 digs, Sorenson 19 digs, Braegelman 1 ace serve 10 digs, R. Anderson 13 kills 5 ace blocks, L. Anderson 3 kills 1 block, M. Gruber 23 kills 2 blocks.
After Maggie Gruber's kill put the Jaguars up 1-0 in game one, an incredible back-and-forth tussle ensued, with each team returning the ball six times before Tigers' attacker Maggie Lindow earnd a tip kill for the side out.
It was a sign of things to come, as Nevis led 7-2 before Gruber earned a second kill of the game. Outstanding jump serving by the Tigers put the Jaguars on their heels, leading 10-3 and 18-10. The Jaguars would get within three, down 20-17, after Gruber supplying most of the offense.
A kill by Lindow ended the game with Nevis winning 25-18.
Game two started much better, as the Jaguars led 7-3 on two consecutive kills from Rachel Anderson. The Tigers then tied it at 7-7 and 8-8 before re-taking the lead in a 25-17 win.
Lengthy vollies were the standard of the match, but too often the Jaguars would lose the battle with unforced errors or blocked attacks.
The Jaguars led only twice in game three, 1-0 and 7-6, and the Tigers then re-gained the momentum to build leads of 16-11 and 19-13. An ace serve from Brittany Roelike made it 19-15, but a timeout by Nevis snuffed the momentum.
Punch for punch, the Jaguars answered in the final minutes of game three, but the damage was done. An attack by the Jaguars was soundly rejected by a double block, giving Nevis a 25-20 win.
Coach Weller said about the loss, "Nevis had nothing to lose, they outplayed us. Both their middle hitters were much stronger than last year. We tried different things but they answered everything we threw at them."
After the Jaguars took a 7-3 lead in game two, Weller added "Errors haunted us. We gave them numerous free balls and they took advantage of that."
About the 27-win season, Weller stated, "They had a great season, they played your hearts out. Our senior leadership was great this year."
B-B-E stats: S. Gruber 9-9 serving 3 kills 6 digs, Roelike 2 ace serves (12-12 serving) 1 kill 3 digs, M. Gruber 2 ace serves 11 kills 1 block, Hieserich 2 ace serves 22 set assists 6 digs, R. Anderson 6 kills 1 block, Marthaler 7-7 serving 3 digs, Sorenson 11 digs, Braegelman 3 digs, L. Anderson 1 block, Shyan Kuefler 1 kill.