MANKATO - For most of the season, Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart managed to mitigate its slow starts and miscommunication issues with big hits and long runs.
However, it wasn't so lucky on Thursday, when it lost to No. 2-seeded BOLD (Bird Island-Olivia-Lake Lillian District) in three sets (25-18, 25-17, 25-21) in the Section 2A, North Subsection title match at Mankato West High School.
"We just got in big holes all the way through," said BLHS coach Sue Alstrom. "They'd have huge leads and we were struggling to come back. This team usually plays better when they have a lead."
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart libero Mara Olinger digs the ball during the Mustangs’ Section 2A playoff loss to BOLD Thursday at Mankato West High School.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
The top-seeded Mustangs (18-12, 7-1 Tomahawk Conference) fell into its biggest hole of 19-6 in the first set, a stretch during which they gave up separate runs of 6-0, 4-0, 4-0 and 5-0.
The Warriors (19-8, 11-3 West Central Conference) were led by senior Baylie Kubesh, who finished with a match-high 12 kills.
After Alstrom's timeout in the first set while trailing 19-6, the Mustangs went on an 8-1 tear to pull within six points at 20-14. Six points was the closest BLHS would get, however, as BOLD pulled away with the 25-18 first-set victory.
"We haven't made it to this level lately, so it's a new experience," Alstrom said. "Our kids, if they can hang onto that and come back next year, I think we'll be a whole lot stronger."
Ever since moving down from Class AA in volleyball in 2011, BOLD has won the North Subsection title in Section 2A - a streak that has now reached three consecutive titles.
Both teams played neck and neck in the second set with neither budging until an ace by Andrea Maher and a kill by Carly Sigurdson gave BOLD a 17-14 lead. From there, the Warriors spread the ball around en route to a 25-17 second-set victory to go up 2-0.
Communication issues continued for the Mustangs, but this time they were due to the environment in which they played.
"It was really hard to hear in here and they said that a couple times," Alstrom said. "None of us ever play in a gym like this. Your depth perception is really off, so it takes a while to catch up to that."
The Mustangs did not go down without a fight, as they gnawed at the Warriors' lead late in the third set to cut it to three points. However, a tip kill by Kubesh beat a block by Carley Klabunde to seal the match for BOLD, which will face Martin County West on Saturday in St. Peter for the Section 2A title as well as a state berth.
Alstrom is optimistic about the players she has coming up through the junior varsity and ninth-grade ranks, but lamented the loss of seniors Klabunde, Hannah VanderVoort, Jacey Nelson, Becca Ebbers, Kalley Wulkan, Maddie Ludowese and Alesha Paulsen.
"They were a very cohesive group going in and they loved each other so much, it's incredible," Alstrom said. "We didn't have any drama all year and that's what makes a team really fly."