STATE VOLLEYBALL: Minneota cruises past New Life Academy of Woodbury in Class A quarterfinals, 3-0

Photo by Brennen Rupp Minneota’s Lydia Sussner follows through on a kill during their Class A quarterfinal match against New Life Academy of Woodbury on Thursday in St. Paul. The Vikings won 3-0 to advance to the semifinal round today.

ST. PAUL – New Life Academy of Woodbury jumped out to 2-0 lead in the opening set against the Minneota Vikings in their Class A quarterfinal matchup on Thursday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center. That lead didn’t last long, as the Vikings went on a 5-0 run to take a 5-2 lead and never trailed for the remainder of the match, with Minneota going on to win in straight sets to advance to the state semifinals.

The win also marked the state tournament debut for this year’s Minneota team, as the last time the Vikings reached the tournament was in 2013.

“None of us have played here before,” Minneota coach Hayley Fruin said. “I think we were maybe a little nervous. I thought serve receive passing was great. Everything started connecting as we got more comfortable.”

Once the Vikings found their bearings it was an uphill climb for the Eagles. The Vikings took the opening set, 25-20, with Minneota’s lone senior Jennifer Krog ending it with a kill.

Lydia Sussner led the Vikings with six kills. Lizzy Gillingham chipped in with three kills. Morgan Kockelman recorded 17 assists.

The Eagles had no answer for Sussner in the second set. Sussner started the match with three straight kills and added a block to put the Vikings up 4-0.

The Vikings went on to win the second set in convincing fashion, 25-10. Sussner finished with 10 kills and two blocks.

Sussner said their passes were key in her success on the offensive attack.

“The passes were passing the ball in system,” Sussner said. ” I got to run whatever routes I wanted.”

Kockelman added that the Vikings have come accustomed to Sussner coming up with big kills in critical situations.

“We can depend on Lydia in tough situations,” Kockelman said. “She can put the ball away whenever we need her to. I think she played really good.”

Fruin said that the team’s front line is an obvious strength for her team.

“I love it,” Fruin said. “I love that there is just one senior on this team as well. We have a lot of leadership. On any given night it could be anybody leading us.”

The third set started much like the second set, with the Vikings jumping out to a 4-0 lead. Minneota led 12-3 and appeared to be on their way to an easy third set victory.

That’s when the Eagles came alive. They went on a 7-3 run to trim Minneota’s lead to 15-10. The Vikings were forced to call a timeout when the Eagles trimmed the lead to 18-16.

Following the timeout the two teams went back and forth, before Sussner came up with another big kill to give the Vikings a 25-21 victory.

“We pride ourselves on outhustling and outworking our opponents. They are a scrappy team,” Fruin said. “Give them credit. They were keeping balls alive. They play scrappy. It gets frustrating playing a team like that. Give them a lot of credit; they played well.”

Sussner and Gillingham both finished the final set with three kills. Krog chipped in with two kills.

With the win the Vikings will play Bethlehem Academy in the semifinals today at 3 p.m. Bethlehem Academy defeated Pine River-Backus in the opening round, 3-1. The Cardinals enter today’s matchup with a 16-14 record.

NLA of Woodbury 20 10 21

Minneota 25 25 25

Individual Statistics

Serving (Ace): Minneota (Gillingham 2 aces; Pohlen 1 ace).

Kills: Minneota (Sussner 21; Gillingham 8; Krog 5; Rolbiecki, Larson 4; Kockelman, A. Hennen 1).

Digs: Minneota (A. Hennen 21; Gillingham 15; Pesch, M. Hennen 11; Kockelman 10).

Set Assists: Minneota (Kockelman 36).

Blocks: Minneota (Sussner 5; Kockelman, Krog 3; Larson 2).