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Tigers edge B-B-E, earn trip to state

Stephanie Hanson strengthened Nevis' regular-season volleyball schedule to prepare her players for the post-season tournament.

Playing tougher competition paid off Saturday night as the Tigers earned their second trip to the state Class A tournament by winning the Section 5A title at Pierz.

For the fourth consecutive year, Nevis and Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa battled in the Section 5A volleyball championship match.

B-B-E defeated Nevis for the section title in 2008 before the Tigers claimed their first state berth by defeating B-B-E in the section championship match in 2009. Last season, B-B-E prevailed in the section final to earn their fourth state berth.

This time it was Nevis' turn to prevail as the Tigers rallied for a 25-19, 17-25, 21-25, 25-8, 15-12 victory.

"We knew it was going to be a battle. They always seem to play their best against us," said Hanson. "We never quit. We were ready to prove that we can beat them."

Competing against the state's best teams during the regular season helped Nevis defeat the Jaguars Saturday night.

The Tigers went 2-5 against ranked teams during the regular season, defeating Lake of the Woods (No. 15 in Class A) and Fergus Falls (No. 16 in Class AAA) and losing to MACCRAY (No. 7 in Class A), Mayer Lutheran (No. 5 in Class A), Lake of the Woods, Minnetonka (No. 15 in Class AAA) and Win-E-Mac (No. 9 in Class A).

"In the playoffs, you have to play at a higher level and playing stronger competition earlier in the year prepared us for this match," said Hanson. "The girls were confident and that came from playing against the best competition all year."

Nevis, which is rated No. 8 in the state, coasted through the section tournament with 3-0 wins over Isle, Onamia and Rush City.

After falling behind B-B-E, which was ranked No. 10 in the state, the Tigers regained their composure by dominating Set 4. Nevis jumped out to a 16-2 lead behind five kills by Riley Hanson, who ended the set with three more kills.

Four more kills by Hanson gave Nevis a quick 7-3 lead in Set 5. Three missed serves enabled B-B-E to close the gap to 12-10, but the Tigers were able to close out the match and advance to state.

"After the third set, (B-B-E) felt they were going to win. I told the girls that (B-B-E) is not going to win," said Hanson. "I could tell that the girls were determined and confident. In their minds, they weren't thinking about losing. They were thinking about what they needed to do to win. You could see it in their eyes that they were going to do it."

Offensively, Hanson led the Tigers with 32 kills while Megan Norby added 15 kills and three ace serves. Olivia Toft had 37 set assists as Nevis tallied 53 kills in the match.

Norby's four solo blocks led the Tigers' defense, which compiled 75 digs. Hanson (25), Norby (22), Karly Drury (22) and Katie Becker (11) led the Tigers in digs.

Taylor Braegelman had 10 kills and Brittany Roelike had 17 digs to lead the Jaguars, who end the season with a 25-8 record.

Nevis advanced to the section title match with a 25-11, 25-10, 25-18 win over Rush City Thursday night at Pierz.

Hanson's 19 kills and nine digs and Norby's 15 kills and five ace serves led the Tigers. Toft added 32 set assists and five ace serves.

Rush City ended the season with a 23-5 record.

The Tigers will open the state tournament against Mayer Lutheran Thursday afternoon at 3 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. Mayer Lutheran is rated No. 5 in the state and is the No. 2 seed in the tournament with a 21-13 record. Nevis enters with a 23-9-1 record.

Thursday's other quarterfinal matches pit No. 1 Faribault Bethlehem Academy (23-7) against No. 9 Win-E-Mac (29-4), No. 12 Ada-Borup (30-1) against Cherry (23-3), and No. 6 Minneota (26-6) against BOLD (21-8). Bethlehem Academy is the No. 1 seed, Minneota is the No. 3 seed and Ada-Borup is the No. 4 seed.

The championship and consolation semifinals will be played Friday with the championship, third-place and consolation championship matches set for Saturday.

"We didn't play as well as we needed in the (regular-season) tournaments to get one of the top four seeds, but we're a good team and we can compete (at state)," said Hanson. "The girls have to play with confidence. I expect them to go in with the fire and confidence they had to win the section championship."

Nevis statistics vs. B-B-E

Serving: Becker 15 for 19 (2 aces), Brown 3 for 5, Toft 19 for 19, T. Drury 1 for 4, Dierkhising 12 for 14 (1 ace), Hanson 13 for 13, Norby 27 for 29 (3 aces).

Attacks: Becker 16 (2 kills), Toft 8 (1 kill), T. Drury 7 (2 kills), Dierkhising 1 (1 kill), Hanson 74 (32 kills), Norby 48 (15 kills).

Sets: Becker 2, Toft 72 (37 assists), T. Drury 1, Hanson 10 (2 assists), Norby 9 (3 assists), Gatewood 1.

Digs: Hanson 25, Norby 22, K. Drury 22, Becker 11, Toft 9, Gatewood 7, T. Drury 1.

Solo blocks: Norby 4, Hanson 2, T. Drury 1, K. Drury 1.

Assisted blocks: Norby 4, T. Drury 2, Becker 1, Hanson 1, K. Drury 1.

Nevis statistics vs. Rush City

Serving: Becker 11 for 11 (2 aces), Brown 10 for 10 (1 ace), Toft 13 for 15 (5 aces), Dierkhising 6 for 8 (3 aces), Hanson 10 for 12 (3 aces), Norby 16 for 17 (5 aces).

Attacks: Becker 8 (2 kills), Toft 1, T. Drury 7 (1 kill), Hanson 32 (19 kills), Norby 28 (15 kills), K. Drury 1 (1 kill).

Sets: Becker 2, Toft 56 (32 assists), T. Drury 1, Hanson 6 (3 assists), Norby 2, K. Drury 8 (1 assist).

Digs: Hanson 9, Gatewood 5, K. Drury 5, Norby 4, Becker 3, Brown 2, Toft 1.

Solo blocks: T. Drury 1, Hanson 1.

Assisted blocks: T. Drury 3, Becker 2, Hanson 2, Norby 2, K. Drury 2, Toft 1.