ST. LOUIS PARK 3, BLOOMINGTON JEFFERSON 2
(22-25, 26-24, 22-25, 25-15, 15-13)
For the third consecutive year there has been a different champion in 6AAA, and for the second straight year a brand new entrant will make their debut on the big stage. Last year it was Edina. This year it is St. Louis Park. If you liked drama and twists this match was for you. The number two seeded Orioles survived a marathon round of five, had to rally from deficits twice in the final set and saw leads melt away in earlier sets. Four of the sets were decided by three points or less. After point number 20 (and 10 in the final set) there were six lead changes on the day. One more point on the points after 20: the earned point totals were StLP 12, BJ 12, but if we eliminate block points (which are hitting errors) the numbers are BJ 11, StLP 7. The Orioles had five of their 11 blocks when the sets were on the line.
These two Metro West Conference rivals know each other well and close contests are nothing new. Earlier in the September the Jaguars won in five on the road. In that match up three of the sets went to extra points. Today only the second set went long. In 2018 Jefferson during the conference season, again in five, while the Orioles turned the tables in the section quarters in four last year.
Oddly enough which ever team served first won the set. Which ever team scored first was 2-3.
In set one section 6AAA coach of the year Whitney Meierotto-Simon of St. Louis Park was not shy about burning her first time out down 6-3 after a 5-1 Jeff run. The Orioles pulled ahead thanks to the sharp serving of Addie Warg who produced a run of five. Seven of the total sixteen runs for the Orioles came with Warg serving. BJ tried to slow the momentum down with a time out at 15-12, but Park added two more before BJ got the ball back. Park led 20-16 and they would be the first to 20 (or 10 in set five) in every set. It was then the wheels came off. Hitting errors, two double contacts tied the set at 20. By then the second Park time out was gone. After getting the ball back after a missed serve and adding a block it was Park’s turn to miss a serve. Three straight hitting errors set up the final point which was a kill by Ellie Sieling.
In set two it was BJ’s turn to build a lead, this time four points after a 6-1 run made it 13-9. Park responded directly with a 6-1 run of their own to inch forward 15-14. The Orioles stayed in front out to 21-18 after a double contact violation. Three straight BJ kills with the last two from Ellie Sieling tied the set at 21 and forced the second Park time out. BJ had set point after an overpass kill by Melanie Meyer. That ruffled the Orioles plumage and they answered with three straight blocks to end the set. Kendal Coley had a hand in the first two with Faith Johnson providing the winning point.
Park rode that momentum early in the third to build a 6-2 and 11-5 lead. BJ burned their first time at 5-2. Park’s side out game was working fine with four of their 19 first ball kills coming in the first five BJ services. But BJ can block too. A Meyer block opened the door to four more points soon followed by an avalanche of eight when Alicia Wendler served. She knocked down four of her five aces in that stretch. But good fortune was not to last for the Jaguars. With two time outs gone the Orioles rose to the occasion and once again they flew on the wing of Warg’s serve. After a dump by Makaila Winward got the ball back, Warg delivered four straight and kept the string going of reaching 20 first (20-19). BJ scored the next four. After the runs, the rest of the set settled into side out action with a first swing by Lydia Nash giving BJ a 2-1 advantage.
Set four did not have any of the twists and turns that were the hallmark of the other sets. Once again Park jumped out to a quick lead (10-4). The closest the Jaguars got after that came at 14-11. Johnson came up big for Park in this set with five kills and an ace on point 25. She closed with three of the last five Oriole points.
St. Louis Park elected to receive to open set five. After a first swing kill by Ellie Sieling, the Jaguars jumped all over the Birds pulling out to a 6-1 lead and forcing Park into using both time outs. The second one did the trick. After a transition rally kill by Hannah Howell, it was Warg up to her magic behind the line. Despite not getting an ace in the run of five she kept Jefferson off balance on their attack. Park inched forward 7-6 during this time with Nash returning the ball to BJ after first swing kill. The Jaguars then took a 9-7 lead. Park came right back with their own run of three (10-9). BJ had one last gasp with two straight points off Park hitting errors (12-11). Johnson got the first swing kill to tie it at 12. It was a race for three. The Orioles won that race. Two straight BJ hitting errors, followed by a Park hitting error set up the final point—a two touch kill by Winward. The Orioles were flying to state for the first time in their history—a drought that has existed since the first tournament was held in 1974—-45 years.
Jefferson is also suffering from a drought. Their last state appearance came in 1999.
This is the only section where the high seed gets to host. Only one side of the bleachers were down which created a crowded atmosphere.
With St. Louis Park’s state appearance only one team in 6AAA has never crashed the party: Minneapolis South. 6AAA has the best completion rate of the eight AAA sections with 11 of the 12 teams having at least one appearance. The next best section is 2AAA with 10 of 12. Three sections have five schools each sitting on the sidelines (4, 5, and 8)
The expectations for seeding in AAA will be thus depending on Saturday results: Sections with a strong chance to be a top five seed include 1, 2, 3, & 5. The fight will be for #5 with 4, 8, Sections 6 and 7 will be unseeded.
ST. LOUIS PARK
|ST. LOUIS PARK||BLOOMINGTON JEFFERSON|
|POINTS AFTER 20(10)||20||28|
|EARNED PER SET||16.74||14.13|
|FIRST BALL KILLS||19||22|
|TOP FB KILLS||Hannah Howell 6||Lydia Nash 10|