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New Life sophomore Abby Gorter tries for a kill against Heritage Christian Academy in the Section 4A semifinals. The Eagles fell 3-0 in the match. (Bulletin photo by Matthew Davis)

New Life Academy volleyball: Eagles blocked by Heritage

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Playing at Heritage Christian Academy in sectionals has become like a house of horrors for the New Life Academy volleyball team.

“We don’t like this gym,” Eagles sophomore outside hitter Abby Gorter said.

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The Eagles lost 3-0 at the Section 4A semifinals for the third straight year at the, you guessed it, the HCA gym. This time around, they actually fell at the hands of Heritage Christian (17-16-3, 7-1 MCAA) in a sweep, 25-23, 25-22, 25-13. The previous losses came against Mayer Lutheran 3-0 in 2012 and Southwest Christian 3-0 in 2011.

“Tonight, we got beat by a better team,” Eagles coach Wally Bomgren said.

The Eagles kept pace with HCA in the first game, never trailing by more than three points after a 16-16 tie. However, missed kill attempts costs the Eagles in the 25-22 loss.

“They served really tough,” Bomgren said about HCA. “They got us out of our rotations a little by really serving.”

In the second game, the Eagles endured a 6-1 run by HCA at the start and even took the lead at 11-10. They held the lead at 21-17, but they struggled after sophomore outside hitter Sydney Mortensen dove into the stands in an attempt to save a volley. HCA regrouped and rallied to win again, 25-22, with points on a couple close calls.

“We just made more errors than they did,” Eagles sophomore middle hitter Abby Thor said. “They out-ball controlled us and out-hustled us.”

A 7-3 run to start game three sparked HCA, and the Eagles never caught up. Mortensen returned for that game, but little worked for the Eagles in a 23-13 loss.

“It’s hard to get the momentum back when we’re down,” Gorter said.

The Eagles had seen this before in their previous meeting on Sept. 24 when HCA won 3-2. HCA struggled in 25-12 and 25-8 wins by the Eagles, but they gave the Eagles trouble in the other three games.

“They flip the momentum on like a switch,” Bomgren said.

In the semifinal match, Gorter led the Eagles with 11 kills, three service aces and 12 digs. Thor had seven kills, and Kara Stenerson had 24 assists and 15 digs. Maddie Stocker finished with 16 digs, and Sydney Mortensen had 12 digs.

The Eagles ended their season at 21-11 with a 6-2 record in the Minnesota Christian Athletic Association for third place. They also ended the season with a No. 9 ranking in the Class A quality results formula poll, and they were ranked as high as No. 8 during the season. The Eagles achieved all of this despite having a young team of no seniors and one junior.

“I think we proved a lot of people wrong,” Gorter said. “Not many people were expecting us to go so far as a young team.”

Several of their players had competed together on Junior Olympic squads for six years, which helped prepare them for this run. They now look forward to doing more in 2014 with everyone returning.

“We’re going to ramp up our non-conference schedule next year and make it as tough as we can,” Bomgren said. “I think this team is a state tournament team next year and the following year.”

-Matthew Davis

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