AITKIN -- They might be short, but they do play mighty.

Top-seeded Pine River-Backus collected its fifth-straight victory Tuesday, Oct 29, and in the process eliminated No. 2 seeded Onamia in the North Subsection 5-1A semifinals.

Six different Tigers collected kills as PR-B setter Rylie Hirschey dished out 31 set assists to go with eight digs, two blocks, four ace serves and four kills of her own.

“We try and spread it around as best we can,” PR-B head coach Josh Hirschey. “That’s part of what makes us good this year is that we have five options. Sometimes we go to a two setter look and Rylie is a six option.”

Jamie Johnson towers over her teammates at 5-foot-8 and is still battling an ankle issue, but she led the Tigers with 11 kills. She added four digs, three blocks and two ace serves as PRB posted 13 ace serves against Onamia’s serve receive.

Hirschey’s first ace serve was part of a 4-0 run the Tigers used to build a 5-2 advantage in Game One. An Emma Barchus kill started another four-point rally that pushed PR-B’s lead to 11-5. Back-to-back Johnson kills brought it to 16-9.

“Their block was there pretty good,” Emma Barchus said. “We just worked really hard to hit angles and try to hit around them. We were just trying to hit where they were not.”

An Emma Barchus tip handed the Tigers a 20-12 advantage and the two teams traded points until the 25-17 final.

“We always have our spots that we hit right away at the beginning and that just worked for us,” Emma Barchus said. “We just kept going right back to it.”

PR-B’s tipping continued to work early in Game Two, but it was Onamia that controlled the scoreboard at 5-2 thanks to a Kailee Barnett kill.

Back-to-back Johnson ace serves gave the Tigers a 6-5 lead until PR-B began to pull away to a 14-10 advantage behind four straight Barchus serves.

Onamia rallied to take a late 20-18 edge.

“We were just trying to dig as best we can,” Hirschey said. “We’re not real big, but we can jump pretty well. We can block better than we did tonight. We better on Thursday or it will be a long night.”

Hannah Barchus and Emma Barchus hit consecutive kills to tie the score before an Olivia Adkins ace serve regained the lead for PRB at 23-21. An Onamia error and an Emma Barchus kill sealed the 25-21 Game Two win.

“In that second time out, we were just trying to slow their worlds down and make the next play,” Hirschey said. “That was it. We’re always trying to focus on the next play regardless of score.”

Adkins finished with 16 digs, seven kills and two blocks. Hannah Barchus added five kills and five digs and Anna Felthous posted three kills.

PR-B rushed out to a 10-5 lead in Game 3 and built it to 17-9 on back-to-back Adkins kills. An Emma Barchus tip pushed the lead to 20-12 before Johnson sealed the 3-0 sweep with another tip and a 25-16 Game Three win.

“This is really exciting,” Emma Barchus said. “Last year, we lost a lot of our starters and it was really fun to just bring this group together and to get this far with this team.”

For more photos of the match-up between the Pine River-Backus Tigers and the Onamia Panthers go to

Pine River-Backus 3, Onamia 0

Key: Six different Tigers collected kills

Overall: PRB 28-3

Next: No. 1 Pine River-Backus vs. No. 2 Walker-Hackensack-Akeley in North Subsection 5-1A Final at Little Falls 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct 31

Onamia 17 21 16
Pine River-Backus 25 25 25

Pine River-Backus statistics
Claire Dahl 7 digs
Emma Barchus 1 dig, 9 kills, 1 block, 4ace serves
Hannah Barchus 5 digs, 5 kills 1 ace serve
Anna Felthous 2 digs, 3 kills, 1 block
Jaime Johnson 4 digs, 11 kills, 3 blocks, 2 ace serves
Olivia Adkins 1 set assists, 16 digs, 7 kills, 2 blocks, 1 ace serve
Ali Gravelle 1 ace serve
Rylie Hirschey 31 set assists, 8 digs, 4 kills, 2 blocks 4 ace serves