Bucs surge all the way back (almost)
Fresh off a five-game win over New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva in the Class AA South Sub-Section volleyball quarterfinals, the Buccaneers overcame a 2-0 deficit to force a fifth game against St. Peter on Tuesday, Nov. 1, but a 15-9 defeat in the final bout ended Blue Earth Area’s tournament run.
Entering Mankato East High School, the site of Sub-Section semifinals, with their best record (19-10) since 2012, the maroon and gold owned a lead in each of their five games against the Saints but were unable to dig themselves all the way out of an early hole.
“They laid it all out there,” said Bucs coach Donna Nawrocki. “It was close, but it was a true team effort, and they worked really hard.”
St. Peter worked equally as hard to capture the night’s first two games, overtaking BEA leads twice to threaten a sweep.
A string of early attacks by the Bucs, including back-to-back points on a Lindsey Norman kill and Sidney Blair dump shot, gave BEA a 5-2 advantage at the start of the evening, but both sides were neck and neck as the score increased, with the Saints capturing the first round, 25-23, when a Norman tip landed just outside.
The tide turned at the start of game two, in which the Bucs fell behind 3-0 but worked their way back to claim a 15-13 lead. Serving errors and a slew of double-hit calls by the officials, however, magnified a comeback by the Saints, who knotted the bout at 20 before taking the set, 25-22.
But with their backs against the wall, facing elimination, the Buccaneers came within reach of the tournament title game and a shot to square off with the state’s No. 1-ranked Kenyon-Wanamingo squad by rattling off back-to-back victories.
The first came when they built up one of their most sizable leads of Monday night, going up 15-7 in the third game after back-to-back kills by Norman, who received assists on both plays by her sister, Alissa. Despite a surge by St. Peter to narrow the deficit to two points, a Samantha Barslou kill handed BEA a 25-22 “W.”
The fourth set, meanwhile, may have marked the peak of the Buccaneers’ comeback attempt. Each team traded shots for much of the game to keep the score close, but in the home stretch, dumps by Maddi Oelke, coupled with a diving dig by Kaylor Jacobs and a follow-up kill by Lindsey Norman, catapulted the Bucs to a 25-18 win.
With BEA and St. Peter granted a final opportunity to advance and crowds as riotous as they had been all night, the Buccaneers jumped out to a 3-2 lead, but once the Saints got into a rhythm, downing kills at the back end of the court, they could not be slowed.
An 11-4 St. Peter advantage became a 12-7 one, and the Saints ultimately took the match with a 15-9 decision.
Leading BEA in Monday’s season-ending match, Barslou logged 15 kills, while Lindsey Norman had 12 and her sister, Alissa, paced the offense with 40 set assists.
Sofie Blair was credited with a team-high 15 digs, while Barslou and Jacobs had 11 apiece.
From the serving line, Sofie Blair led the Bucs with 14 points and a pair of aces, and Oelke recorded nine points on 11 serves.