ST. PETER - Morgan Williamson and her Martin County West teammates kept their eyes riveted on the prize during Saturday night's Section 2 volleyball championship match.
Williamson reeled off nine consecutive points around a pair of BOLD timeouts in Game 3's stretch run and distributed the last of her match-high 38 set assists to outside hitter Taryn Tumbleson for the sweep-sealing kill at the Lund Center on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus in St. Peter.
The T-n-T hitting tandem of Kate Thiesse and Tumbleson combined for 20 kills, while Maverick teammates Hailey Leiding, Jordan Gregory and Libbie Lange chipped in a total of 21 more to power a 25-20, 25-22, 25-18 triumph over the BOLD Warriors.
TWO HANDS, PLEASE — Martin County West hitter Jordan Gregory makes a two-handed pass as Kate Thiesse (7) and Hailey Leiding (4) watch during the Section 2A championship volleyball match Saturday at the Lund Center at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter. Photo by Leanna Becker
Martin County West (23-9-1) advances to face defending Class A state champion and No. 1-ranked Bethlehem Academy of Faribault (23-7) at 1 p.m. Thursday in the state quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
BOLD, the 2011 Section 2 champion, ended its season with a 16-13 record.
"Our girls have really come together and are peaking at the right time of the season," said second-year Maverick mentor Mary Sussenguth, who guided the program to its third state appearance in the last five years. "They've worked hard every single day in practice, and I could not have been blessed with better players."
Freshman outside spiker Jordan Gregory literally jumpstarted Martin County West's quick start in the sectional final's early stages with her potent jump-serve. Williamson doled out three set assists in a row, with Thiesse pounding down two kills to bookend Tumbleson's ace blast, before Gregory served an ace to build a 5-0 lead.
Junior setter/hitter Bailey Kubesh, however, countered with back-to-back kills to inch the Warriors within striking distance until Maverick libero Molly Klima created breathing room from the service line.
Klima, who topped a balanced MCW performance with 13 points behind 15-for-17 serving, followed Gregory's sideout kill with a three-point run to extend the margin to 13-6.
Kubesh, who tallied a team-best 10 points behind a 16-for-16 service effort, later trimmed BOLD's deficit to 16-14 with a pivotal three-point performance at the line. The Warriors' Bailey Elbert then added two service tallies to even the score at 17-all before Maverick middle hitter Libbie Lange delivered a pivotal block.
"It's hard for opposing teams to stop all five of our hitters. We're so balanced that defenses can't focus on just one or two of our players," said Sussenguth. "Our backrow (Jackie Schliesmann, Autumn Smith, Kennedy Janssen and Klima) does a great job of picking everything up, and they came through for us again tonight."
Clinging to an 18-17 lead, Lange and Leiding delivered the frontline damage off Williamson assists as Tumbleson lined home three critical service points.
Outside hitter Mallarie Steffel countered with two kills to draw BOLD within 21-19, but an errant Warriors' set allowed Klima to chalk up two more points behind kills from Thiesse and Leiding for a 24-19 lead.
Thiesse, who topped MCW with 11 kills, then swatted a Williamson set off of a BOLD defender's hands to seal the opening 25-20 win.
Leiding, who pounded out eight kills in the sectional championship, delivered a pair of momentum-shifting sideout spike-winners to help trigger both Tumbleson's three-point service stint and Klima's four-pointer to eventually create a 14-8 edge in Game 2.
Gregory and Thiesse smacked down hand-bruising kills during Klima's run before Kubesh and the persistent Warriors chipped away at the lead.
Kubesh's well-placed power tip, followed by her four-point service stint, tied Game 2 at 21-all before Lange literally elevated her level of play by flipping home an untouched ace tip to slam the brakes on BOLD's comeback.
Gregory's stinging spike off Williamson's set later rotated Klima to the line with a 23-22 lead and the sophomore libero served out the final two points on the strength of Thiesse's thundering kills.
Gregory proved the early catalyst for MCW in Game 3, building a quick 4-0 lead out of the service rotation's leadoff spot only to witness yet another BOLD comeback.
Bailey Elbert's serving, combined with Taylor Ebnet's three consecutive blocks, later evened the score at 6-all before Paige Larsen's three-point service stint swung the lead to the Warriors.
BOLD maintained its narrow two-point lead to 18-16 as Tumbleson cranked a cross-court kill to mark the beginning of the end.
Williamson rotated to the line and notched two points before the Warriors called timeout at 18-all. Lange and Tumbleson drilled kills before Williamson unleashed an ace to force another BOLD timeout at 21-18.
Williamson kept her composure and focus out of the short recess, reeling off four unanswered points to cap the three-game sweep. Leiding and Lange smacked kills, while Tumbleson nailed the match-winning kill.
Tumbleson finished with nine kills, Leiding tallied eight, Gregory chipped in seven, while Lange added six.