Chargers rally but fall short in 5 sets

Staff photo by Steve Muscatello Minnesota Valley Lutheran’s Mara Weisensel (5) spikes the ball as Rachel Dean of Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart tries to block it during Section 2A playoff action Monday at MVL. For more photos of this event go to

NEW ULM — Despite a Minnesota Valley Lutheran comeback after trailing 2-0 to Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart, the Mustangs were able to hold off the Chargers in five sets for a 2A playoff victory, 25-17, 28-26, 21-25, 17-25, 15-12.

The Mustangs advance to play the No. 1-seed Mayer Lutheran at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mayer.

In the final set, BLHS took a quick 2-0 lead, but MVL went on a 5-0 run that was capped off on a kill by Emma Nelson to force a BLHS timeout. The Mustangs then went on a 5-0 run of their own that was finished by a kill from Jacxl Fernandez to lead 8-5.

MVL took a 12-11 lead back late, but BLHS closed the final set out on a 4-0 run.

MVL coach Sara Gieseke was proud of her teams fight, but felt that things cooled down too much at the end.

“I thought they played aggressively, but then just timid at the end where we weren’t getting any hits in and then a lot of tips over the net,” Gieseke said. “It just wasn’t aggressive.”

BLHS went on a 3-0 run to lead 7-4 early in the first set, but MVL climbed back and tied it at 7-7 after back-to-back aces by Haley Birkholz. With MVL up 17-16, BLHS went on a 9-0 run led by a pair of Rachel Dean kills to win the first set.

The second set saw BLHS up 23-18 after a 4-0 run and kills by Fernandez and Alyssa Peterson. MVL went on a 5-0 run, though, to tie things at 23-apiece and force a BLHS timeout.

MVL took a 26-25 lead, but BLHS took 3 points in a row to win the second set.

BLHS opened Set 3 with an 11-7 lead before MVL went on a 5-0 run to lead 12-11 after an ace by Abby Riesgraf. MVL took a 22-17 lead after a kill by Grace Peterson and went on to win the third set after a BLHS violation.

MVL took a 10-5 lead in the fourth set after an ace by Birkholz and a BLHS hitting error. Hannah Marzinske later gave MVL a 22-14 lead after a kill that would help lead MVL to a fifth set, but BLHS finished the night out strong.

MVL ends its season at 12-14 overall. Although MVL’s season is over, the team showed a solid improvement from last year, where the Chargers picked up just two wins.

“We had some young players that really stepped into some roles and the juniors that were sophomores last year — they really played a big part again,” Gieseke said. “Haley [Birkholz] was our senior that was playing almost the entire season. Jordyn [Keranen] had an injury, so she wasn’t able to play that much, but Haley did a really nice job with her hitting accuracy and passing.”

MVL was led by Mara Weisensel and Lauren Paulsen, who had 13 and 10 kills respectively. Paulsen also added five blocks. Birkholz had nine kills for MVL, while Riesgraf had 32 digs.

Maddie Pearson and Mackenzie Helget had 17 and 12 set assists respectively.

BLHS (11-16) was led by Dean with 19 kills, while Peterson and Fernandez had 10 and eight kills respectively. Anna Buboltz had 16 set assists for BLHS and Keegan Hanson had 29 digs. gs. had 29 digs.


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