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Volleyball: Alexandria takes care of business in playoff opener against Little Falls

With dominant wins in set one and two, and a close third-set win, the third-seeded Alexandria Cardinals swept the sixth-seeded Little Falls Flyers 3-0 in the first round of the Section 8AAA Playoffs on Thursday. Alexandria meets the No. 2 seed Rocori on the road on Tuesday.

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Alexandria junior Amelia Williams celebrates after scoring a point in the Cardinals' 3-0 win over the Little Falls Flyers in the first game of the Section 8AAA Playoffs on Oct. 27, 2022.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA - Starting with convincing wins in sets one and two, the Alexandria volleyball team made the plays it needed to in its 3-0 sweep over the Little Falls Flyers on Thursday in the first round of the Section 8AAA Playoffs.

“Our communication was great in this one, especially in the first two sets,” Alexandria head coach Mary Byrne said.

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Alexandria sophomore Addie Rossum (12) tips the ball over the outstretched arms of Little Falls senior Jayden Spillum (11) during a Section 8AAA playoff match on Oct. 27, 2022. Alexandria won the match 3-0 and advanced to the Section 8AAA semifinals.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

The third-seeded Cardinals (15-6) came out firing against the sixth-seeded Flyers (10-14), winning the first set 25-4 and the second set 25-9.

The third set was more in the Flyers' control as they led the set late, but the Cardinals made the plays they needed to down the stretch to win the third set 25-23 and seal the 3-0 sweep.

“We just didn't hold our composure in that last set and we started trying to do too much,” Byrne said. “That’s a situation where we just have to settle down and really work on keeping composure. I think we had some senior leadership come through later in the set with players like Charlotte [Lempka]. I think the younger players then started to follow suit.”

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Lempka had an unofficial team-high 13 kills and sophomore Hadley Thul is listed with 12.

Read more Alexandria Cardinals coverage from the Echo Press

“Our serving and passing have been points of emphasis in recent practices and we’ve been working on getting them in, keeping them low and staying aggressive,” senior setter Kiya Issendorf.

Issendorf is credited with a team-high 21 assists and five aces.

“In these kinds of slower games where it's mainly serving, we really need to talk to stay focused, to stay on our toes, and to be ready for anything,” Issendorf said.

With the win, the Cardinals are on to the semifinal round of the Section 8AAA Playoffs where they will hit the road to face the No. 2 seed Rocori (20-8) at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

The Spartans are undefeated in Section 8AAA matches (9-0) while the Cardinals are 6-1. The Cardinals' lone loss in section play came against the Spartans, 3-0, on Sept. 27.

The Spartans took care of the No. 7 seed Becker (7-18), 3-0 on Thursday to begin the playoffs, and have a four-match winning streak going. The Spartans are 7-1 at home, with their lone loss coming in their home opener against Willmar on Sept. 6.

To guide them in the playoffs, the Cardinals are looking for seniors to continue to lead the way.

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“Their leadership has been very important,” Byrne said. “They’re great at calming things down out there, keeping composure and they’re the ones that have to handle that with their experience.”

Along with Lempka and Issendorf, Emma Ballou and Miah Wessel are seniors and play big roles for the Cardinals.

The winner of Tuesday’s semifinal will advance to the Section 8AAA Championship on Saturday, Nov. 5, to face either the No. 4 seed Sauk Rapids-Rice (13-12, 4-3 Section 8AAA) or the No. 1 seed Detroit Lakes (19-4, 3-0 Section 8AAA) at a site that is yet to be determined.

“We’re so hungry after falling short last year,” Issendorf said. “We have strong players, we have a strong team and we want to go all the way.”

The Cardinals made it to the Section 8AAA Championship in 2021 but fell to Sauk Rapids-Rice, 3-1.

“We’ve got just take things game-by-game, match-by-match and point-by-point,” Issendorf said.

Moving forward in postseason play, the Cardinals are aiming to have strong communication as well as strong serving.

“We have to serve and pass well,” Byrne said. “We kind of let our serving go in the third set (on Thursday) and that kind of really hurt us. We’re going to practice being stronger in that.”

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Little Falls - 4 9 23 - 0 

Alexandria - 25 25 25 - 3

ALEXANDRIA INDIVIDUAL UNOFFICIAL STATS - Charlotte Lempka, 13 kills; Hadley Thul, 12 kills; Maddie Buysse, 7 kills, 1 block, 1 assist; Kiya Issendorf, 21 assists, 5 aces, 2 kills; Emma Ballou, 1 kill; Addie Rossum, 4 aces, 1 block, 10 assists; Amelia Williams, 2 blocks

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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