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Cardinals stay on top

Amanda Christianson and Gretchen Watkins both make a diving attempt to avoid a Fergus Falls kill last Thursday. The Cardinals beat Fergus Falls to remain on top in the Central Lakes Conference.

The Alexandria volleyball team now has sole possession of first place in the Central Lakes Conference after beating Fergus Falls at home in five sets last Thursday.

Both Alexandria and Fergus Falls were undefeated in Central Lakes Conference play heading into Thursday's match, but a five set victory now has the Cardinals on top.

They needed a come from behind effort to win after Fergus Falls won the first two sets 25-18, 25-23 to put the Cardinals in an early hole. But they were able to dig themselves out of the deficit by winning the final three sets 25-19, 26-24, and 15-13.

Head coach Becky Schlichting said a come-from-behind victory is nothing new for the Cardinals, who are now 4-0 against CLC opponents this season.

"With this team it's usually just a matter of they need to turn it on and they need to make the decision to play the way that they can play," Schlichting said. "For whatever reason, they like to put themselves in the situation where they are underneath and they need to play to the top to win."

The Cardinals did not make any adjustments with their lineup or rotations after losing the first two sets. Instead they credited the turnaround on better execution on offense in the final three sets.

"Our passing 100 percent turned around," Schlichting said. "We were able to get that ball up to our setters so that we could run our offense."

After losing the first two sets, the Cardinal players still believed they had a chance to win the match.

"Just confidence in my team and I knew we could do it," Christianson said about her thoughts after losing the second set by a small margin. "We always have roller coasters but we always come out on top."

The Cardinals' offense in the game was led by Liz Schultz who had 21 kills. She was feeling ill during the game but was still able to lead the Cardinals in kills and added 14 digs.

"It was awesome," Schultz said. "I just tried to push through everything."

Kalley Bistodeau was second on the team in kills with 14. She said the win was gratifying with so many players contributing on offense for the Cardinals.

"It was amazing because we have been wanting to beat them for so long," Bistodeau said.

Christianson led the Cardinals' defense with 17 digs, and Amanda Haack provided 52 set assists in the game.

After beating Fergus Falls, many of the players feel they now have momentum to continue playing well through the rest of the season.

"It feels awesome," Christianson said. "It definitely boosts our confidence even more."

The match was the first win for the Cardinals against Fergus Falls since the 2010 season, providing another reason for the players to feel good about their season.

"It's really good," Schultz said. "We haven't beat Fergus in a while so I think the team is really pumped about it."

Heading into the game, the Cardinals felt confident about their chances against Fergus Falls. They knew the outcome of the game would likely come down to their execution on offense.

"We definitely came into it knowing we had a shot to win," Schlichting said. "It just kind of depended on which team showed up for us."

The Cardinals still have some work to do in the CLC with upcoming rematches in the schedule against Rocori and Fergus Falls. Both teams lost to the Cardinals in five sets this season.

The Cardinals will have another test on Thursday when they play a 7 p.m. home match against Willmar. They only have one loss in the conference to Fergus Falls this season.


ALEXANDRIA — 18 23 25 26 15

FERGUS FALLS — 25 25 19 24 13

ALEXANDRIA — Amanda Haack — 4 kills, 52 set assists, 2 aces, 7 digs; Kalley Bistodeau — 14 kills, 4 aces, 16 digs; Emily Kuennen — 7 kills, 3 digs; Amanda Christianson — 10 kills, 4 set assists, 3 aces, 17 digs, 1 block; Wensia Johnson — 12 kills, 2 digs; Liz Schultz — 21 kills, 14 digs, 1 block; Gretchen Watkins — 1 kill, 10 digs

Blaze Fugina

Blaze Fugina is the sports editor of the Woodbury and South Washington County Bulletin newspapers. Previously, Blaze worked as a sports editor for the Pierce County Herald and a sports reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls in May of 2011. You can follow Blaze on Twitter at @BlazeFugina.

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