GAYLORD - The Tuesday night game in Gaylord was all about defense and passing.
And there wasn't a football in sight.
The Springfield Tigers volleyball team advanced to the Section 2A, North Sub-section championship game on Thursday night in New Ulm by beating the Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart Mustangs in four sets, 25-12, 25-18, 27-29, 25-15.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
Springfield’s Tiffany Schwanke (5) attempts to block the spike of Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart’s Ashley Tintes during the Tigers’ Section 2A playoff win Tuesday in Gaylord.
The Tigers came up big in the defense department, coming up with big dig after big dig, allowing few tip kills while playing tough at the net.
"BLHS is a very scrappy team," Tigers coach Tiffany Thedens said. "But we played very good defense tonight."
While BLHS also played outstanding defense, its passing and service game was off just enough to make a difference.
"We had a lot of errors," coach Susan Alstrom said. "It is what it is. You only play as good as your passing, and our passing wasn't very good tonight."
Midway through the first set, it looked like it might be a dogfight for five sets, as there were five ties through 8-8. But then Springfield started its defensive stand and came up with 11 straight points. The Tigers were also helped by four aces in that stretch by Molly Dunn, along with three kills from Morgan Hansen.
With the 25-12 win in the books, it was the Mustangs' turn to ramp up their offense, primarily behind Mikayla Paulson, who had five kills to help open a 9-5 BLHS lead.
The Tigers rose to the occasion, though, coming back to knot the game at 10-10, plus four more times before they took the lead for good after it was 15-15. Aided by two aces from Kasey Kretsch and one by Shelby Schultz, Springfield opened a 23-16 margin before trading two points with BLHS that put the Tigers up 2-0.
The third set was classic playoff volleyball, with the Mustangs rallying from a five-point deficit in the early going to go up 15-14 and take a lead they wouldn't relinquish. Starting at 25-25, there were two more ties as the teams battled it out, with a kill from Hannah VanderVoort finally putting BLHS in the win column.
Set four was anyone's in the early going, with five ties leading up to 7-7. Then the Tigers went to the senior well for leadership. With Kretsch serving, Springfield rattled off six straight points, setting the tone for the rest of the match.
An ace by Schultz and two from Tiffany Schwanke helped open the floodgates and give the Tigers a 22-12 lead, with Hansen putting her exclamation mark on the victory by nailing four kills in the final five Springfield points.
Hansen led the Tigers with 18 kills and Schwanke had 13 kills and 33 digs.
Paulson had 18 kills for the Mustangs and Ashley Tintes had 20 set assists.
Springfield (24-6) will play the 6 p.m. game Thursday at New Ulm High School against BOLD.