Volleyball: Eagles sweep to within a game of state
This one came in as a mismatch, at least on paper.
Top-seeded Mounds Park Academy came in with a gaudy 24-2 record, a 12-game winning streak and was playing at home.
Visiting and fourth-seeded New Life Academy came in with just a modest 16-13 season mark and a very modest two-game winning streak.
Yet the mismatch happened; only it was the New Life Eagles who soared to a rousing sweep, winning 25-20, 25-22 and 25-16 in a Section 4A semifinal victory.
The win put the Eagles a game away from playing in the Class A state volleyball tournament. New Life (17-13) will play second-seeded Nova Classical Academy (22-4) for the section title Thursday at Bloomington Kennedy, starting at 5:45 p.m.
Nova outlasted third-seeded West Lutheran in five games Tuesday, winning 25-12, 22-25, 25-18, 21-25 and 15-13.
Tuesday's win was the third-straight 3-0 sweep for the Eagles in section play.
Players and head coach Wally Bomgren were hard pressed to say which was better Tuesday, New Life's offense or defense.
"I think our offense was really good tonight because our eighth grade middle hitter is an incredible player and had so many amazing kills that were just down to the floor," said New Life junior setter Bethany Breiholz with a huge smile as she stood next to 13-year-old phenom teammate Mackenzie Roettger.
"Our defense was very scrappy and our libero Hannah (George) is an amazing libero who won't let anything touch the ground and Nadia (Nelson) won't let anything touch the ground and Kate (Rogers) won't let anything touch the ground and we're just an overall scrappy team," added Breiholz.
The Eagles got solid play up and down the lineup and then big kills from Roettger, Rogers and Ellianna Wiertsema especially.
"I think our defense is really good and we didn't let any ball touch the ground," said Roettger.
All those games this season against 2A and 3A competition are now paying huge dividends for the triumphant Eagles.
"I'm happiest with how steady they played," said Bomgren. "We had very little letup in that match. I think if it went five you tend to have a few let-ups when you fear what might happen. But we pushed back so well if we got behind by a little."
"I think defensively the way we moved for all kinds of balls was most impressive to me," added Bomgren. "And we covered our hitters. We knew they had some big blockers out here and I thought we covered our hitters well. We moved those back row people right up to the block and had some good coverage that way."