Volleyball: New Life heading back to state
It was Déjà vu all over again for the New Life Academy Eagles Saturday.
The Eagles knocked off top-seeded Nova Classical Academy in straight sets in the Section 4A volleyball finals at Bloomington Kennedy to earn a repeat trip to the state meet.
New Life swept the Knights, winning 25-20, 25-18 and 25-16.
The Eagles advance to the 2018 State Girls Volleyball Class A tournament in the Xcel Energy Center Nov. 8-10.
It was the second-straight section final win by the Eagles over the Knights.
Top-seeded Nova ended its season at 26-6.
Second-seeded New Life Academy's season goes on. The Eagles will take a 19-10 record to state. After losing to second-seeded Minneota in the first round of last year's state tournament, New Life went on to win the consolation championship.
New Life dominated the front-court action, especially on the left side. Defensively the Eagles were relentless, refusing time-after-time to let hard-hit balls drop.
"Ellie Wiertsema played extremely well today," said longtime Eagles head coach Wally Bomgren. "She scored a lot of points on the left side and our other left-side hitter, Kate Rogers, was dynamite in the back row and scores a lot of points. She's a very confident hitter back there."
New Life got off to a slow start and trailed 14-10 in the first set before charging back. The Eagles caught the Knights at 16-all, then reeled off the final six points to take the set.
"I think we played well defensively, and we were overall very together as a team," said freshman middle hitter Makenzie Roettger.
The Eagles dominated the second set, taking a 20-10 lead before Nova closed the gap late. But New Life had more than enough cushion to earn the game.
"I think we communicated really well, we kept up the energy and played as a team instead of individuals," said middle hitter Lauren Schumacher, one of just four seniors on the team.
"I thought our serve receive was amazing," Schumacher added. "We were working really hard, and even if we missed one we came right back and pushed and got it up. It was really fun to see the defensive players work so hard back there. Without the defense we wouldn't have been able to play our offense."
The third set was tied 7-7 and 12-12 before New Life went on a 13-4 run to close out the match.
After a bit of an-up-and-down regular season, the Eagles saved their best volleyball for the end of the season. New Life went 9-0 in sets, sweeping three straight opponents in the section tournament.
Defense keyed the win by the Eagles Saturday.
"We played good defense," agreed Bomgren. "We are playing our best volleyball now. If we somehow can peak at the right time that's our goal, and we are. We played really well Thursday against a team that pushed back against us hard. And obviously this team — we had to pay attention today to do the right things defensively. We made some really good ball-handling plays all three games."
There were mixed opinions on which section win was more satisfying — this year's or last year's.
"Well, state is always super, super fun," said Roettger. "So I guess we'll have to have twice as much fun this year."