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Cards bounce back for section win

Alexandria’s Amanda Christianson follows through on a kill against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8AAA opener on Friday night. Christianson led the Cardinals with 16 kills to go along with five ace serves, 15 digs and two blocks on her way to helping Alexandria into the semifinals. (Blaze Fugina/Echo Press)

St. Cloud Tech nearly pulled off an upset over the top-seeded Cardinals volleyball team in the Section 8AAA quarterfinals before Alexandria stormed back to win in five sets and keep their season alive.

St. Cloud Tech was twice up a set in the match, but Alexandria was able to pull off the comeback by winning the fourth set 25-13 and the fifth set 15-7. Head coach Becky Schlichting said it was somewhat concerning to see the top-seeded Cardinals trailing in a home section playoff match.

“Coming into the match we knew it could go either way,” she said. “We knew they could battle us hard or we knew it could be easy for us, and we decided to be prepared.”

St. Cloud Tech played their way into the section match against Alexandria with a win over Becker on October 23. The Cardinals received a bye as the first seed, and Schlichting noticed some nerves early in the match.

“Tech played great volleyball the majority of the night,” Schlichting said. “We had a lot of jitters on our side, I think, for this being the first round of the playoffs, and Tech had that out of their system already.”

Amanda Christianson led the Cardinals with 16 kills in the match. Wensia Johnson was second with 12 kills and Kalley Bistodeau finished with 11.

Christianson also led the team’s defense with 15 digs and with five aces in the match.

What was the difference in the Cardinals play during those final two sets? Christianson said they were able to raise their energy levels on the court.

“We brought our energy so much and we had fun,” she said. “We just hit the ball and did our passing and had good communication.”

As one of the offensive leaders in the match, Johnson said she was focused on getting a win to keep the season alive for the seniors on the team.

“I didn’t want it to be our seniors’ last game, so we had to go hard,” she said. “And I like hitting, so that kind of came easy.”

The win put the Cardinals in the section semifinals match on Tuesday evening, yesterday, at home against fifth seeded Detroit Lakes. The winner of that match will play either Moorhead or Bemidji at a neutral site on Friday at 7 p.m. for a spot in the state tournament.

Schlichting said she expects the team to play with more confidence after getting their feet wet in the playoffs. Most of the team previously had not experienced the section tournament before playing St. Cloud Tech on Friday.

“We’ve had two girls that have been in this situation before,” Schlichting said. “The rest have played highly competitive ball but they’ve never been in the section playoffs before. Not that that is an excuse, but we look for some of that to not be in the picture next Tuesday when we play again.”

The Cardinals players agree that added confidence will help them continue winning in the section tournament. Christianson said that was the plan for their semifinal match against Detroit Lakes on Tuesday.

“Just bring our game and work our hardest and have confidence in ourselves,” she said. "Bring energy and have a spark.”




(24-26, 25-18, 22-25, 25-13, 15-7)

ALEXANDRIA – Amanda Haack – 6 kills, 48 assists, 1 ace, 4 digs; Kalley Bistodeau – 11 kills, 1 assist, 3 aces, 10 digs; Emily Kuennen – 8 kills, 2 digs, 1 block; Amanda Christianson – 16 kills, 3 assists, 5 aces, 15 digs, 2 blocks; Wensia Johnson – 12 kills, 1 assist, 6 digs, 1 block; Liz Schultz – 9 kills, 3 assists, 8 digs, 4 blocks; Gretchen Watkins – 4 aces, 9 digs; Katie Dolan – 2 aces, 9 digs