Electric isn’t a strong enough word — there was a full-on power surge in Breckenridge, Minnesota, Thursday Sept. 16 when two undefeated volleyball teams collided.
The Cowgirls went wire-to-wire with Barnesville, Minnesota, in a five-set win, avenging their only loss from last season in front of a packed house. Set scores were 13-25, 25-11, 18-25, 25-18 and 15-11.
“We talked a lot before the game about our mindset. Physically, we can handle this, we’re right where they are or better. Mentally, we have to be strong,” Breckenridge Head Coach Margaret Wilson said. “We weren’t mentally strong in that first set, but we came back and won that second set, which gave us a little boost.”
Breckenridge looked dazed by the speed and precision of Barnesville in set one. The Trojans were clearly a class above any opponent Wilson’s team has faced this season.
“I was a little nervous coming in, just not knowing what to expect. You can watch film, but you never know until you get into it,” Wilson said. “The girls weren’t sure what to expect either, so they were a little bit on their heels, especially that serve receive the first set. We finally found our groove a little bit and the outcome was much better than the start.”
Breckenridge became the aggressor in set two, grabbing an 11-3 lead on some rocket-fire serves by Sophie Larson. Ana Erickson joined the serve party and Addie Twidwell stymied Barnesville at the net, staking the Cowgirls to an 18-8 lead, while ultimately holding Barnesville to 11 points in the set.
Breckenridge made its season-low point total in set one a distant memory, clawing back and embracing all the floor burns that would come during some gritty volleys in sets four and five.
The night’s biggest moments favored Erickson. The senior added another dimension to Breckenridge’s offense, surprising Barnesville with a number of attacks that had the Trojans reeling in the latter sets. Her seven kills seemed like 17.
“Ana stepped up huge in that last set and got some big kills,” Wilson said. “She turned it on, had confidence in her swing and hit the ball well. She had some awesome net play, shutting down hitters, blocking them, anything jousting at the net was really big for her. That’s exciting to see her finally turn that on, she had a heck of a game.”
With Barnesville mounting a small rally in set four, Riley Finkral’s dig rattled off the ceiling heater to Sophie Larson, who set Camryn Kaehler up for the clinching kill to force a fifth set.
Every set win was claimed on the north side of the court. Breckenridge took to the north end for the tie-breaker set and jumped ahead 7-4, before the Trojans charged back for a 12-10 lead. There were three ties in the set.
“Back-and-forth, it was kind of like a roller coaster,” Wilson said. “We’d do a couple good things, then get down on ourselves a little bit, but we had players step up.”
Abby Johnson’s kill through two Barnesville blockers secured match point and sent the Breckenridge student section storming onto the court. The ensuing celebration between players and students nearly brought down the net, as the Cowgirls finally erased both of their phantoms from 2020 — Henning and Barnesville.
Kaehler led the Cowgirl attack with 20 kills. Johnson was second with 14. Breckenridge had three players record 20-plus digs — Johnson (22), Kaehler (20) and Finkral (28). Carcie Materi tallied 27 assists and Larson added 15.
Breckenridge scored nine team aces, tapping into its abundance of depth once again.
“Victoria Undem was big as well in the fourth and the fifth set. There were a lot of players who stepped up when we needed them to and that was awesome,” Wilson said.
Breckenridge travels to Wheaton, Minnesota, Tuesday, Sept. 21. First serve is set for 7:30 p.m.