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Tigers win 5A title, qualify for state

Nevis players celebrated defeating Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa 25-18, 25-17, 25-20 for the Section 5A championship Saturday night at Brainerd. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
Leading the Nevis volleyball team to the Section 5A title and the school's first trip to the state Class A volleyball tournament were (front from left) Casey Sauser, Nicole Edwards, Paige Walters, Maggie Lindow, Mandy Allman, Annessa Feder, Amy Mack; (back) assistant coach Stacy Feder, assistant coach Heidi Wormley, Brittany Carlson, Annie Albright, Riley Hanson, Bettsy Hjelseth, head coach Stephanie Hanson, statistician Marlene Lucas. The Tigers, who defeated Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa for the section titl...2 / 2

Stephanie Hanson knew the Nevis volleyball team had to defeat the defending Section 5A champions in order to qualify for the state Class A tournament for the first time in school history.

The Tigers accomplished that goal Saturday night at Brainerd High School with a 25-18, 25-17, 25-20 victory over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa in the Section 5A title match.

Nevis cruised through the section tournament, defeating Onamia (25-14, 25-15, 25-15) and Pillager (25-15, 25-18, 25-13) in the first two rounds at home before eliminating Barnum 25-15, 25-18, 25-13 in a section semifinal game Thursday night at Brainerd. Another dominating effort against B-B-E gave Nevis that elusive state berth. B-B-E was ranked No. 7 in the final state Class A poll and placed fourth at last year's state tournament.

"We have had many good years building up to this moment. A lot of hard work and the experience of having two successful seasons the past two years with many wins and some tough losses during the subsection and section finals were important factors in our success as a team this year," said Hanson. "I was confident that the girls could physically play at state-level competition. However, I was a little concerned if they would be ready mentally. It takes a lot of mental focus and stability to win big games. We worked a lot on that part of the game this year and it paid off in the end. The confidence was evident in the championship game. The girls just had to finish what they started and play the way they knew how to play because they already were a great team. They proved in the end that they could play with great teams such as Barnum and BBE."

Nevis, which was rated No. 15 in the final state Class A poll, will make its state debut Thursday afternoon at 1 against No. 12 Meadow Creek Christian at Xcel Energy Center. Nevis, which received the No. 4 seed at state, will carry a 25-5 record into the state quarterfinals while MCC is 26-6.

The other state quarterfinal matches Thursday pit No. 1 Bethlehem Academy (27-3) against G-F-W (25-7), No. 19 Parkers Prairie (27-6-2) against No. 2 Minneota (26-5), and No. 5 Deer River (26-7) against No. 10 Lake of the Woods (23-7-2). In the state brackets, Bethlehem Academy is No. 1, Minneota is No. 2 and Deer River is No. 3.

The state semifinals and consolation semifinals will be played Friday with the finals set for Saturday.

"I do feel we have improved every game this year and are peaking at the right time," said Hanson. "I think the girls know that every game will be a challenge. However, they will want to finish the season playing the best volleyball they have ever played and in the end they will have succeeded. The fact that the end is at the state tournament is a big statement to how special this team really is. We hope to represent the area and our section to the best of our ability."