BY ROB LAPLANTE
The St. Michael-Albertville volleyball team wasted no time in advancing past the Section 5AAA quarterfinal match with Centennial.
The No. 3 seeded Knights defeated Centennial in straight sets, 25-19, 25-21 and 25-18.
After cruising in the opening set, the Knights trailed twice in the second set, but rallied both times to take a 2-0 advantage.
STMA head coach Ryan Dehnel said it was a combination of girls stepping up and Cougar mistakes maing the difference.
“(Centennial’s) libero was a good server and they got off to a fast start that second set,” Dehnel said. “It just came down to our girls playing hard and letting the game come to us and when we put a little pressure on them, they would get a little nervous and forced them into some timely errors.”
Senior Becky Hackenmueller came up with several big kills in the contest. She led the way with 13 of them and junior Meagan Ghinter added 10.
Hackenmueller said the team has really stepped up late in the season and is ready to make a late push.
“We’ve picked up our tips and defense and playing a tougher schedule of late has really helped us down the stretch,” Hackenmueller said. “People in our conference aren’t as good as people in the section. It’s helped our competitiveness against big hitters and it’s helped our blocking and digging a lot more.”
Senior’s Paige O’Conner and Candice Yager were able to stave off many of Centennial’s chances. Yager, who is the team leader in digs and service returns finished with 18 digs and 16 returns. O’Conner and sophomore Kaitlin Olson each finished with 10 service returns.
“Paige and Candice were steady as usual and our middle hitters really stepped up,” Dehnel said.
The Knights (18-12) look to advance to the section finals when they take on No. 2 seed Osseo (17-10) Halloween night at 5 p.m. at Blaine High School.
All top four seeds advanced to the seminfinal round with No. 1 Blaine taking on No. 4 Totino-Grace at 7 p.m. Winner of both matches will play for the section championship this Saturday at 7 p.m. at Anoka High School.
“The kids feel like we can do it,” Dehnel said. “If we come out and play like we know how, I like our chances to win. We’d like to have another crack at Blaine.”
“We feel like we have a really good chance at it,” Hackenmueller said. “It’s a hard section, but we feel like we’re good enough to be in this section. We may seem like underdogs to a lot of people, but even if the bigger schools have taller people and better hitters, we work a lot harder during games and practice and we stay together as a team.”