By Coach Tina Turn
Coming off a win over Warren-Alvarado-Oslo the previous night, the No. 1 seeded Bearcats were fortunate enough to host the playoff quarterfinal match in Hallock against the Lake of the Woods Bears on Friday, Oct. 25. The two teams performed in front of a packed house.
Set one showcased several long rallies, big digs and aggressive swings. The Bears kept putting the ball on the Bearcat side, but KCC had too many digs and point conversions to allow LOW much headway. KCC won 25-11.
In set two, the Bearcats didn’t garner as many ace serves but they still managed to keep the Bears out of system. Senior middle hitter Marlee Turn led the offense in set two with 5 kills. Defensive specialist, Jenna Davis had half of her 6 digs in set two to help in the 25-12 win.
Ahead 10-9 in set three, KCC took a timeout and the Bearcats returned to the floor with a renewed energy to re-focus and get the job done. Five ace serves, including the final point of the match by McKenna Peterson helped get that job done. It was Bearcats for the win 25-15, holding the Bears to only six more points after the timeout.
This was one of our most solid nights of blocking all season. For the seniors, it was a great way to play their last game at home in front of an energized crowd. The Bearcats served 96 percent for the night, and notched 12 aces in the stats. This win allowed the Bearcats to advance to the Section 8A semi-final match in Bagley on Tuesday, Oct. 29.
Section 8A semi-final
The No. 1 seed from each side was matched up against the No. 2 seed from the other side. As the No. 1 seed from the west side, KCC was pitted against the No. 2 seed from the east, the Ada-Borup Cougars.
The Bearcats started the match slowly as Ada tooled off our block and scored with an ace to go up 2-0. Senior middle hitter Marlee Turn answered back with a kill, but Ada-Borup scored the next 6 points to have an 8-1 lead, which forced a Bearcat timeout. The timeout was the ticket as Ada-Borup swung into the net, and sophomore defensive specialist Jenna Davis knocked over 2 ace serves. Turn found the corner five open on a kill to compete a 4-point surge.
It was strong serving by Turn and two aces that tied the set at 9. Sophomore middle hitter Cheyanne Scalese helped her team with a block and 2 kills to take a 14-10 lead. Senior outside hitter Morgan Olson actively swung and picked up a couple of kills. KCC incurred some unforced errors until the Cougars blocked Scalese’s swing out of bounds for a kill and a 16-19 score. Turn returned to the front row and senior libero Shelby Pankratz toyed with the Ada-Borup serve receive. Olson scored on a kill down the line and Turn hit three zingers to go up 21-19 and force Ada-Borup’s second timeout. Turn came out of the timeout and responded with her third kill in a row.
The Bearcats struggled with three bad passes, which kept KCC out of system. Tied at 23, the Bearcats took their second timeout, after which Turn got the go-ahead point on a kill. The ensuing points were several-touch rallies, but the final two points came from the Cougar outside for the set one win 28-26.
Coming off that tough extra-point loss, the Bearcats re-grouped and played much more relaxed. Senior Josie Steen had 5 serves that kept the Cougars out of balance immediately. Ada-Borup tried some tips but setter Gracie Whitlock saved many points with her digs, including one pancake dig that led to a McKenna Peterson kill and an 8-2 lead. Turn had a 5-point swing at the serving line to help her team garner an even bigger lead. The Bearcats bungled one overpass, but other than that, it was a completely clean game by the Bearcats who ended the game on a Steen ace for a 25-8 win.
The Bearcats made some poor choices at the beginning of set three and had to fight back to tie the game at 6. The pattern in set four was that the Bearcats served tough and succeeded in keeping the Cougars out of system, but at the net, where KCC usually responds aggressively, the Bearcats played a bit tentatively, thus not capitalizing the way they had most of the season. The entire set was a back-and-forth battle with neither team having a lead of more than 3 points at any time. Toward the end of the set, the Cougars served aggressively and several poor passes led to the Bearcats unable to find their go-to hitters on offense. That out-of-system play led to the 25-22 victory for the Ada-Borup Cougars.
Ada carried over their momentum from the set three win into set four as KCC struggled to find a rhythm. The Cougars led, although barely, until the Bearcats took the lead 9-8 on a Scalese/Whitlock double block. Whitlock and Turn each got kills to go ahead, but a couple of hitting errors and a Cougar ace serve allowed Ada-Borup back in to tie the score at 13. That was the last lead for the Bearcats. Several poor passes kept KCC scrambling and not able to play within system, which ultimately led to the heartbreaking 20-25 season-ending loss.
We were hoping for a much different outcome, but when playoffs roll around, a team’s season record means little, and seasoned playoff experience can help a lot. The first set was a really good battle, and had the ball dropped our way or a couple of more calls gone our way, the outcome may have been different, but playing the what-if game doesn’t serve much of a purpose. Important matches often come down to controlling the ball, and Ada-Borup successfully kept KCC out-of-system enough that we played less aggressively at times than we usually do. Ada-Borup’s experience in playoffs helped them make key aggressively plays at pivotal times. The underclassmen hopefully can learn the valuable lesson that it’s more important to play to win than to play to not make an error.
KCC served 94 percent and racked up an astounding 14 ace serves in this semi-final match. They close out their season with a phenomenal 28-3 record.