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Volleyball: Tigers lose two straight in state tournament

The Tigers celebrate winning the third match against Bethlehem Academy Thursday, Nov. 9. Ashley Smith / Echo Journal Correspondent 1 / 4
Ashley Smith / Echo Journal Correspondent Bailey Wynn dives for the ball in the Tigers second match against Bethlehem Academy Thursday, Nov. 9.2 / 4
Ashley Smith / Echo Journal Correspondent Jaime Johnson hits the ball against New Life Academy at the State volleyball tournament Saturday, Nov. 10.3 / 4
Ashley Smith / Echo Journal Correspondent PR-B's Rylie Hirschey sets the ball against the New Life Acacdemy Eagles Friday, Nov. 10.4 / 4

The Pine River-Backus Tiger girls volleyball team dropped the first game of the state tournament, falling to the Bethlehem Academy Cardinal 3-1 in the quarterfinals at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Thursday, Nov. 9.

"We didn't play very well at the beginning," coach Josh Hirschey said. "I thought in game three and game four - even the end of game two - we got our feet under us and played a bit better. For our strengths, serve/receive is usually at the top of that list, but it wasn't there early. They have good servers ... It just wasn't meant to be, I guess, but the grit and toughness these kids have is always there and I think they displayed that tonight."

The Cardinal took the first two games by scores of 25-17 and 25-11, but the Tigers bounced back in the third.

PR-B led by as much as eight points, but Bethlehem Academy came back to tie the game at 21-21. After three more ties and two lead changes, the Tigers came away victorious 27-25.

"The first game wasn't our best," junior Bailey Wynn said. "We knew wanted it, and that is what got us through game three. We just kept pushing no matter what."

The Tigers kept it close in the fourth game, pulling within one point midway through, but the Cardinal maintained a lead throughout for the 25-20 victory.

Wynn tallied 13 kills and 17 digs for the Tigers, while Alyssa Semmler had 16 kills and 10 digs. Gabby Rainwater tallied eight kills and 16 digs while Rylie Hirschey had 40 set assists.

"(Playing at the Xcel Center) was truly amazing," Wynn said. "We knew we had a chance to get here, but we also knew it was going to take a lot of hard work. To come in here and see the court and see the lights was really amazing."

The Tigers moved into the consolation bracket, where they faced the New Life Academy of Woodbury on Friday, Nov. 10, where the Eagles got the best of the Tigers in a 3-1 defeat for PR-B.

Bailey Wynn slammed 11 kills and scooped 16 digs for the Tigers. Alyssa Semmler had 17 kills, while Riley Hirschey corralled 32 set assists and 18 digs for the Tigers.

"We didn't play our best volleyball down there at the (Xcel Center) but it was a great experience nevertheless," Hirschey said. "We battled tough but just had a few stretches where we didn't play good enough to beat one of those academies. Down there, against kids that for the most part are one-sport athletes that play 12 months a year, you have to be at your absolute best, and we were not."

The Tigers finished with an overall record of 24-8, winning 22 of their final 23 games before the state tournament.

"It was a great season overall," Hirshey said. "When we were 3-5 I don't think there were many people predicting that we would end up 24-6 and be heading to the state tournament. The kids kept believing and just kept working through all the noise. I think those early season trials helped make us tougher as a group and led to our overall success by playoff time.

"I think it's fair to say that our community was proudest of the girls for the toughness, grit, and passion that they played with during the last month or so, especially in the section tournament. The kids had plenty of chances in the semifinals and finals to throw in the towel, but they just kept marching forward."

Hirschey also expressed his gratitude toward a community that supported his team through every step of the postseason.

"The support down the stretch was overwhelming in many ways and it was nothing short of awesome," Hirschey said. "I think that is part of why living in a small community is so great, and that was on full display hearing and seeing our crowd down at the (Xcel Center). It will be our turn as a program now to be visible and give back to the PR-B community in the offseason."

Bethlehem Academy 25 25 25 25

Pine River-Backus 17 11 27 20

Pine River-Backus statistics

Gabby Rainwater 8 kills, 16 digs

Bailey Wynn 13 kills, 17 digs

Anna Felthous 5 kills, 6 digs

Jaime Johnson 3 kills, 2 set assists, 6 digs

Alyssa Semmler 16 kills, 3 digs

Rylie Hirschey 40 set assists, 10 digs

Ellie Smith 4 digs

Olivia Adkins 15 digs

Ariana Kramp 3 digs

Emma Barchus 2 ace serves, 23 digs

New Life Academy 25 25 22 25

Pine River-Backus 21 20 25 14

Pine River-Backus statistics

Alyssa Semmler 17 kills, 1 set assist, 1 dig, 1 block

Anna Felthous 4 kills, 2 set assists, 2 digs

Ariana Kramp 2 digs

Bailey Wynn 11 kills, 1 ace serve, 16 digs, 1 block

Claire Dahl 1 dig

Ellie Smith 2 ace serves, 4 digs

Emma Barchus 1 ace serve, 16 digs

Gabby Rainwater 9 kills, 18 digs, 1 block

Jaime Johnson 1 kill, 3 set assists, 3 digs

Olivia Adkins 2 set assists, 3 digs

Rylie Hirschey 2 kills, 32 set assists, 18 digs, 1 block

Overall: PR-B finishes 24-8.

Dan Determan

Staff Writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper.

(218) 855-5879