Volleyball: Warriors gut out 3-2 win over Rocori
Ellie Peabody might appear quiet as a church mouse, but she made some noise Tuesday, Oct. 16.
The senior middle hitter finished with only two kills in the Central Lakes Conference clash with the Rocori Spartans at Brainerd High School, but her last kill handed the Warriors a 14-13 edge in Game 5 and the Warriors went on to win 16-14 for a 3-2 victory in the regular-season finale for both teams.
Warriors head coach Rick Kuehlwein called Peabody's hit the kill of the match, but Avery Eckman led the Warriors with 27 and Courtney Russell added 17 in a roller coaster match that saw Brainerd win Game One with ease at 25-11 before struggling to 27-25 and 26-24 losses in the next two games.
"This game didn't mean anything to us and it meant everything to them and they showed it," Kuehlwein said. "They got everything up. They dug things our kids just couldn't believe. For us, we had way too many errors—way too many errors. In the second set alone, we gave them 17 points. That's a lot of points."
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Warriors 3, Rocori 2
- Key: Trailing 11-8, Brainerd rallied to win Game Five 16-14
- Conf: Brd 10-2, R 3-8
- Overall: Brd 22-5, R 9-18
- Next: Brainerd in Section 8-3A Tournament TBA
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Brainerd beat Rocori 3-0 Sept. 13 in Cold Spring, but nobody in the Brainerd gym would have guessed that Tuesday.
Rocori jumped out to a 16-6 lead in Game 2 before three-straight Russell kills and an ace serve by Kealy Johnson halted the bleeding. Johnson finished with 28 set assists. The Warriors cut Rocori's lead to 18-16 and the teams battled back and forth before the Spartans won the match on back-to-back Warrior errors.
"Their offense was all right, but their defense was awesome," Brainerd's Jenna Meyer said. "They were picking up every ball and they were outhustling us for sure.
"We didn't come to play. We weren't hustling. We just didn't play our game."
Brainerd regrouped to win Game Four 25-19. Brainerd jumped out to 8-4 and 21-13 leads before closing out the game with a block. Delaney Schaeffer led the Warriors with six blocks and Karlie Anderson finished with five.
Meyer added 25 digs and three set assists
"We stepped it up in the fourth and fifth sets," Meyer said. "We needed the win. We needed to gut it out to get the win."
Seeding for the Section 8-3A playoffs will take place Sunday, Oct. 21, and the section will use the Quality Results Formula. Prior to Tuesday's matchup, Brainerd owned the No. 2 QRF spot in Section 8-3A with Willmar, who beat Brainerd twice this season, owning the top spot. The Warriors will get a first-round bye and will face the winner of the No. 7 and No. 10 seed at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 26 in Brainerd.
"The girls are going to get five days off now," Kuehlwein said. "They did it. I need it. We're going to have a good four days of practice and I just told them, 'You're not going to get out of the first round of the playoffs if you play like this and that's just the way it is.
"We have a goal. We really hope it's Willmar and us at the end. We need to work a lot harder than what we did tonight."
The Warriors would have home-court advantage all the way through the section tournament until the finals, which are played at a neutral site.
The Warriors finished the regular season with an 11-1 record at home and haven't lost in Warrior country since the first match of the season.
"If we play like we did tonight, we won't have many more matches," Meyer said. "We're going to practice this whole next week. We'll get a bye because the top four teams get a first-round bye. We'll practice up and we'll play our game."
Brainerd finished with a 7-2 record against section opponents with those two losses to Willmar being the only blemishes.
Rocori finishes the regular season 9-18, but they didn't play like it Tuesday.
"I think it's an awakening for the kids, which is good because they can't take anything for granted," Kuehlwein said. "These kids, they read the stats just like anybody else. They saw Rocori was ranked 50th. Well, they saw what happened tonight."
Rocori 25 25 24 25 16
Brainerd 11 27 26 19 14
Courtney Russell 17 kills
Jenna Meyer 3 set assists, 25 digs
Avery Eckman 27 kills
Kealy Johnson 28 set assists, 6 digs
Eleanor Peabody 2 kills, 3 blocks
Delaney Schaeffer 6 kills, 6 blocks
Ashlyn Sellnow 17 set assists
Karli Anderson 5 blocks