By Jake Calhoun
Journal Sports Writer
HECTOR - Tensity shrouded Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart's match against No. 8-seeded Cleveland in the Section 2A quarterfinals on Thursday.
The No. 1-seeded Mustangs (17-11, 7-1 Tomahawk Conference) fought through the tense points for a three-set sweep (29-27, 25-20, 25-18) of the Clippers to advance to Tuesday's semifinals.
"It was way too close," said BLHS coach Sue Alstrom. "[The Clippers] played better than we thought they might. They were very scrappy, they played very well."
The Clippers (11-14, 5-6 Valley Conference) jumped out to a 5-1 lead behind senior captain Taylor Holicky, who had two kills and a solo block in that span.
Holicky, a 6-foot middle hitter, was the biggest threat to the Mustangs in the match because of her powerful swing that proved difficult to defend.
"If we got a block off of her, we could take it off the touches; otherwise, she could just put it down when she could," said BLHS senior Hannah VanderVoort. "I would say she's one of the few tougher ones [we have faced]."
Holicky finished with a match-high 25 kills in the three-set contest.
In its seven matches against section opponents this season, BLHS tallied an 21-3 record in sets (7-0 overall). Holicky threatened that record with her 10-kill performance in the first set, which was tied past the 25-point mark.
Holicky over-swung on an attack at set point, however, to shoot the ball out of bounds to give the Mustangs the 29-27 first-set victory.
"We're a pretty mentally tough team and we were able to stay that tough throughout the match in those close of games," said BLHS senior Jacey Nelson.
Carley Klabunde led the Mustangs in kills with four.
The second set was another close affair with neither team leading by more than three points until a kill by Maddie Ludowese gave the Mustangs a 14-10 lead.
The Clippers hung around down the stretch, taking an 18-16 lead that prompted Alstrom to call a timeout.
The close affair continued until sophomore Kiana Johnson hammered home three booming kills to give the Mustangs momentum along with their 22-19 lead. They went on to win the set 25-20.
"Every time she gets either a block or a kill, she just gets the entire team going," Nelson said. "It's just awesome."
Johnson led the Mustangs with nine kills overall, while VanderVoort and Becca Ebbers tied with eight and Klabunde finished with six.
BLHS will play New Ulm Cathedral at 6 p.m. on Tuesday at the Sibley East High School Gym in Gaylord. On Sept. 24, Cathedral beat BLHS in the first set before losing the next three.
"On a neutral court, we expect them to be scrappy, we expect them to really play good defense and they always serve really well," Alstrom said of Cathedral. "We're going to have to pass and attack, pass and attack."