Sebeka is going to the volleyball state tournament for the first time in school history following a 3-2 victory over Underwood in the Section 6A championship match in Wadena Saturday night.
The Lady Trojans jumped out to a 2-0 lead by winning the first two sets by scores of 25-21 and 25-22.
“We came out ready to play, we limited our errors and I felt we were sharp,” state Sebeka head coach Becca Pulju. “I was happy that we didn't let them go on any long runs.”
With their season on the line, the Rockets were determined not to go quietly.
Underwood took a 5-0 lead in set three before Sebeka battled back to for a tie at 8-8. But a four-point run gave the Rockets a lead they would not relinquish. Underwood led by as much as 22-15 before going on to win 25-16.
The fourth set started with Rockets’ sophomore Corina Mark delivering five straight aces. The Trojans trailed by as much as 13-4 before starting to chip away at the lead. Sebeka got back to within 22-21 late in the set, but the early hole was too much to dig out of and Underwood earned the 25-21 victory.
“We had some let downs and struggled on serve receive in sets three and four, which is unusual for us, and there was some panic,” Pulju explained.
With the momentum on the Rockets’ side, Sebeka needed to get off to a good start in the fifth and deciding set. And they did.
The Lady Trojans scored the first four points and opened a 9-1 to set the tone. The teams traded the several points and Sebeka clinched the match and first-ever trip to the state tournament with a 15-7 win.
“Before set five, I told them all we needed to do was talk and it was an easy fix,” Pulju said. “Jordan Lillquist looked at her teammates and said, ‘We've got this, let's go.’ “She is a girl of a few words, so when she speaks, they listen and I think that was where the confidence came from.”
“Our game plan all season has been to keep the ball alive -- defensively as well as on offense -- keep it in play and we did that well. At times, a few hitters played safe and we got after them. Tipping doesn't win, hitting does.”
Heidi Olson finished with 20 kills and 37 digs. Madison Lake had 11 kills, 18 digs, 3 blocks and 27 assists. Erin Lillquist added 10 kills and 23 digs. Alexis Ratchke and Morgan Palmer both had seven kills, with Ratchke making nine digs and Palmer getting four. Megan Heino contributed eight digs and two ace serves. Emily Houtari had a team-high four aces, while Jordan Lillquist led Sebeka with six blocks.
The Rockets were led by Brenna Tinjum with 16 kills, followed by Emma Fitzgibbons with 8 and Taylor Leitch’s 7 kills. Jacey Ross had 26 assists and led the Underwood defense with 23 digs. Tinjum added 22 digs.
"I am so incredibly proud of this team,” added Pulju. “They had this as a goal for many years and have worked so hard. Last night was a thrilling match - that's what playoffs are about."
With the Section 6A championship secured, Sebeka now advances to the State Class A Volleyball Tournament. The Lady Trojans drew #2 seed Tracy-Milroy-Balaton in the quarterfinals. The match will be played at 3:00 p.m. Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
The Panthers (30-5) are the Section 3A champion. T-M-B was the Class A runner-up last season and was ranked #2 in the final Class A coaches’ poll.