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Alex volleyball sweeps its way to the section title game

Sophomore Wensia Johnson goes high above the ball to put down one of her eight kills against Detroit Lakes on Tuesday night. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

The Alexandria volleyball team will play for a Section 8AAA title on Friday night in Fergus Falls after beating Detroit Lakes 3-0 in the section semifinals on Tuesday.

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The Cardinals persevered through two close sets to win 25-21 and 25-22 to start. That took the wind out of the Lakers’ sails as Alexandria rolled through the third set 25-12 to set up a matchup against second-seeded Moorhead with a trip to the state tournament on the line.

“It’s crazy,” junior outside hitter Kalley Bistodeau said. “Knowing we are only one game away is very nerve-wracking, but at the same time, we know we can do it. We just have to work our way, be positive throughout and the outcome will take care of itself.”

The Cardinals seemed much more relaxed against the Lakers after surviving a scare against St. Cloud Tech in the opening round last Friday night. Nerves were admittedly in play against the Tigers, but the Cardinals didn’t show that on Tuesday.

Instead, they found a way to put sets away at crucial moments. Both of the first two sets were tied 20-20, but it was Alexandria that closed things out by outscoring Detroit Lakes 10-3 over the closing stretch of those first two sets.

“It is good for them,” Cardinals head coach Becky Schlichting said of experiencing those close contests. “Obviously in both those situations, I feel like it was a little bit closer because we weren’t bringing the level of energy that we can. However, it is good for them to have to battle in these situations because I can guarantee our Friday night match won’t be a piece of cake.”

Alexandria used its depth up front to keep the Lakers guessing. Amanda Christianson and Bistodeau both had 11 kills to lead the way for the Cardinals, but sophomore Wensia Johnson was close behind with eight. Junior Liz Schultz and senior Emily Kuennen also help give junior setter Amanda Haack a lot of options to go to. Haack finished with 29 assists against the Lakers.

“It’s awesome to be able to do that, especially for our setter,” Schlichting said of spreading it around. “She’s still always thinking who should get the ball, depending on where the blockers are at on the other side and who their big people are and who’s on fire for us because every different night it changes. That’s a luxury. When your key player isn’t executing and it’s the only player you have, it stinks. It’s hard to push through. Your setter doesn’t know what to do and everyone gets confused. For Amanda to have five girls she can set at any given time, even a couple from the back row, is a really great luxury for us.”

The Cardinals hope it’s an advantage that carries them to their first state tournament since the 2009 season. Alexandria beat Moorhead 3-0 on September 3, but these players know that doesn’t mean much with a lot more on the line in the rematch.

“They’re going to bring a lot of energy and we have to expect them to fight,” Bistodeau said. “We just have to bring the fight back. It’s different because a lot of people come and it gets us motivated to play harder. That’s going to be a positive for us.”

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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