WADENA -- “I think we just wanted it more,” said Pequot Lakes Lydia Hubbard.

It wasn’t easy, but the Patriots rallied after losing the first two games to defeat Mid-State rival Park Rapids Panthers 3-2 in the Section 8-2A Championship Saturday, Nov. 2, and earn just their second trip to the state tournament in program history.

After getting off to a slow start in 25-23 and 25-22 losses in the first two games, Hubbard and Kate Bolz-Andolshek dominated the net to lead the Patriots to 25-19, 25-14 and 15-7 wins in the next three. The 6-foot-1 junior hitters finished with a combined 36 kills and 12 blocks.

Game One saw 10 ties and eight lead changes. The Patriots led 23-22 before 5-11 senior Rilee Michaelson closed it out for the Panthers with a block sandwiched between two kills.

Game Two saw four lead changes and nine ties, the latest at 21-21. Michaelson added six more kills for a total of 12 in the first two sets. Two kills by senior Kamree Carlson and a pair of tips by senior Katelyn Weaver gave Park Rapids a 2-0 lead.

“We were not playing our game like we usually do,” Bolz-Andolshek said. “We told ourselves, ‘let’s play our game like we usually do. Don’t be fancy. Don’t be smart. Just play like we usually do.’ We were a little nervous, but it was mostly just not doing what we usually do.”

An adjustment after the second game paid off for Pequot head coach Chris Ganley.

“I moved Kate to the outside,” she said. “We weren’t finding our middles enough so we moved Kate. She’s got really good timing outside as well and we thought maybe that would open Lydia more in the middle as well.”

After falling 4-1 in Game Three, Pequot rattled off a 5-0 run to take a lead they would never relinquish. The final three points in the 25-19 win came on Hubbard kills.

“We just really went for it to get that third game,” Hubbard said. “I know the whole team wanted it really badly. It was a team effort and getting good passes and sets helps us to lead on the court and we had a little height advantage.”

The Patriots also began to stop Michaelson in the third set. The Panthers powerful hitter managed just two kills and was either blocked or hit long on four other attempts.

“We just made sure when we were up blocking on her we pressed over so that our blocks didn’t get used against us,” said Hubbard. “Getting the momentum really helped and that energized us. I started seeing more spots on the court that were open and it was easier to hit those spots.”

A 9-1 run put the Patriots in control 10-5 in Game Four and they finished the set 25-14 scoring four points off blocks by Bolz-Andolshek and Maddy Morrison and an ace serve from Ella Pfeiffer.

The final set started close with the Patriots trailing 4-3 before going on an 11-1 run sparked by four Hubbard kills and three points from Bolz-Andolshek to take control 14-5. After giving up two points, a Panther serving error sealed Pequot’s trip to state.

“When we were down two games, I told the kids about other teams that came back from being down two games to go to state this year and I told the kids ‘you can do this too,’” said Ganley who was named Section 8-2A Coach of the Year.

“I think our seniors really led their troops and we had some younger kids that played out of their minds like Kate and Lydia. What a fantastic night for Maddy Morrison when she started blocking on their big hitter Riley, who is so good. And all the kids were passing and serving well. It was just fantastic.”

Morrison, a senior, put down eight blocks, seven in the final three sets. Senior Mariah Rickard collected 20 digs and three ace serves while Mariana Ganley, also a senior, finished with 17 digs and four aces. Junior Rjta Ganley tipped 25 set assist and junior Phoebe Glenn contributed 15 set assists and 12 digs.

Pequot advances to the Class 2A state tournament Nov. 7-9 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Patriots only other appearance in the state tournament was in 1994. Saturday’s win propelled the third Pequot girls team into state tournament play this fall. The Patriot girls tennis team finished fourth i and the girls cross-country team finished eighth out of 16 teams earlier Saturday.

“That is so awesome (three sports at state),” said Bolz-Andolshek. “We were all so excited for each other and cheering each other on. The tennis girls and the cross-country girls were here tonight.”

Park Rapids 25 25 19 14 7
Pequot Lakes 23 22 25 25 15

Pequot Lakes statistics:
Rita Ganley 25 set assists, 9 digs
Majanna Ganley 17 digs, 1 block, 4 kills, 4 ace serves
Maddy Morrison 4 digs, 8 blocks, 3 kills
Greta Harmala 2 digs, 1 block
Ella Pfeiffer 12 digs, 2 ace serves
Phoebe Glenn 12 digs, 2 ace serves, 15 set assists
Maci Martini 5 kills, 4 digs, 1 block
Kate Bolz-Andolshek 9 digs, 6 blocks, 1 ace serve, 15 kills
Lydia Hubbard 6 blocks, 21 kills
Ella Kratochvil 1 block
Mariah Rickard 3 ace serves, 3 set assists, 1 kill, 20 digs.

Pequot Lakes 3, Park Rapids 2

Key: Lydia Hubbard and Kate Bolz-Andolshek combined for 36 kills and 12 blocks

Overall: PL 27-5, PR 23-8

Next: Pequot Lakes vs. No. 3 seeded North Branch in Class 2A State Volleyball Tournament at Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7