ST. PAUL, MINN. — Facing elimination after a crushing loss at the hands of Bethlehem Academy to open the Class 1A Minnesota High School Volleyball State Tournament, Breckenridge throttled South Ridge Friday, Nov. 12 in a vintage sweep that included a 14-0 start to the third set. The Cowgirls are now 30-3.

“It was a total regroup today. When we started section playoffs vs. Park Christian, we didn’t play good, but we came back and took care of LPA right away. That was our mindset today,” Cowgirls Head Coach Margaret Wilson said. “All the girls said they felt a good team energy coming into today, the nerves were gone and it was a much better locker room atmosphere.”

The win vaults No. 5 seed Breckenridge into the consolation championship vs. No. 3 seed Legacy Christian Academy (24-7) in a battle for fifth place.

No. 4 seed Bethlehem Academy held Breckenridge to 15 points or fewer in all three sets in the quarterfinal round, neutralizing the heavy outside attack of Abby Johnson and Camryn Kaehler. After sending three serves into the net Thursday, Johnson ignited the Cowgirls on Friday, delivering seven aces during a 14-0 run that unraveled South Ridge.

“It was just a complete rebound. Abby holds the match record with 10 aces and for a second there it was like, ope, she’s getting close to her own record. It really helped us play our game,” Wilson said.

After reaching 1,000 career assists in Thursday’s loss, Carcie Materi kept rolling, placing the ball perfectly for Kaehler to bear down on South Ridge with 16 kills. Kaehler eclipsed 1,000 career kills in the elimination game and has 26 in the tournament.

“To have two girls reach their 1,000 marks at the state tournament is awesome. If we had played a full season last year, Cam would’ve reached this milestone a lot sooner,” Wilson said. “I’m glad we fought our way out of the section to get three more games in so these girls could reach these milestones. Camryn is the first player in Cowgirl volleyball history to reach 1,000 kills.”

With the win, Breckenridge becomes the first volleyball team in school history to win 30 games. The 1980 state runner-up team finished with a 28-2 record.

“Thirty wins, that’s a lot, but we haven’t had time to think about it,” Wilson said. “The seniors are thinking ‘let’s finish our season with a win.’ Not very many teams get a chance to do that.”

Sophie Larson teamed up with Materi for 34 combined assists, greasing the gears of an efficient Cowgirls offense.

“They both bring something different to the table. Carcie has more vocal energy and Sophie is a lot more quiet, but she’s very controlled,” Wilson said. “They both did a nice job of mixing up sets today and running different people. If we had to change it up, it would be very hard, because our hitters are so used to those two.”

The emergence of Ana Erickson continued to make a matrix of the Breckenridge offense. When South Ridge adjusted to the Cowgirls’ outside attack, Erickson made them pay in the middle. The senior was playing tic-tac-toe with the volleyball, placing her attacks in every corner of the court on her four kills.

“From day one to right now, Ana has improved so much. Her determination has improved. She’s always had these skills, now she mentally knows she has it,” Wilson said. “We needed to use our middles more on serve receive, because yesterday we didn’t pass well enough to use them.”

In the front row, Lauren Beyer consistently used her superb vertical to deter attackers and Addie Twidwell kept multiple blocked shots alive. When Riley Finkral couldn’t get to a short tip, Victoria Undem was there to bump it to Kaehler for a kill. The Cowgirls showed no holes in their game, a luxury of having eight senior leaders.

South Ridge kept the second set close up to 17-14, before Johnson went on a personal 3-0 run to give Breckenridge some breathing room in a 25-16 victory.

Friday’s final set started with Jon Undem’s booming “Let’s go green!” chant from the stadium seats. Breckenridge obliged, reeling off 14 straight points to send the Panthers packing and pencil its name into the consolation title round. In a 180-degree turn from Thursday’s dud, the Cowgirls looked a league above their opponent, freezing every South Ridge rally and holding the Panthers to eight points in set three for their 23rd sweep of the season.

Dig leaders for Breckenridge in Friday’s win were Finkral (13), Materi (11), Johnson (9) and Kaehler (9). Johnson scored 10 kills, joining Kaehler as the only other Cowgirl in double figures.

Johnson led Breckenridge with seven service aces. Larson recorded aces on the first two serves of the match and Kaehler also recorded two aces. Erickson stepped up with two solo blocks, followed by one block assist each from Undem and Beyer.

Breckenridge, ranked No. 8 in the Quality Results Formula (QRF), gets a crack at the top-tier of Class 1A volleyball in No. 3-ranked Legacy Christian Academy at 9 a.m. Saturday. Full coverage of the Class 1A Consolation Championship will run in Tuesday’s edition of Daily News along with season statistics.

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