Courtney Ryan called them the best.
And to thank those faithful fans, Ryan and the fourth-seeded Brainerd Warriors eliminated the fifth-seeded St. Cloud Apollo Eagles 3-0 in the opening round of the North Subsection 8-3A playoffs Wednesday at Brainerd High School.
And then they danced.
But before the dancing, the Warriors set the celebratory mood by limiting their own mistakes.
“The team that makes the least amount of mistakes wins,” said Warrior head coach Jared Diem. “If you look at our stats across the board, we had hardly any hitting errors. We hard hardly any serving errors and we had hardly any ball handling errors. Our serve receive was really good tonight. So we played that mistakeless game and you’re always going to win. You can just see it generates points and confidence.”
Brainerd raced out to big leads in all three games and cruised to wins of 25-13, 25-19 and 25-17. Aside from 0-1 scores to start Games Two and Three and a 9-8 deficit later in Game Two, the Warriors never trailed.
“We wanted to go out and really hit the ball and not tip it because they are very scrappy and we just brought it tonight,” said Ryan. “We just kept swinging and that’s what really paid off.”
Ryan finished with eight kills Taylor Johnshoy and Sydnie Mauch led the Warriors attack with 10 kills apiece. Tedi Ramberg added six and Mikaela Chandler finished with five kills.
The Warriors also finished with 8.5 blocks.
“When we did play them before we got eaten up by everyone, especially their outside hitter,” said Diem. “We know she’s going to get her kills. We just wanted to channel a lot through the middle and a lot of quick stuff in the middle. We wanted to make their middles work hard. Hannah Kangas was great tonight. She was just really on her game. She was digging a lot of balls and mixing up the ball set wise. We had our fans, too.”
The energetic Warrior student body was decked out in black, but Kangas was red hot as she finished with 29 set assists, 14 digs and an ace serve.
Sarah Miller added 23 digs and two set assists.
Apollo had won four straight and six of its last seven, including a 3-0 sweep of the Warriors Oct. 11. But Brainerd hadn’t lost at home all season and finished 7-0 in front of their home fans this season.
“We talked about how the girls were mad that we lost at Apollo and we lost so badly,” Diem said. “In the huddle, I just said this is how you erase it from your memory. We set goals at the beginning of the season to be above .500 and win two section games so this is one of their goals that they had.
“It’s kind of a thank you to our fans and our parents and it’s great to get that energy going for Fergus.”
St. Cloud Apollo 13 19 17
Brainerd 25 25 25
Sydnie Mauch 10 kills, 2 ace serves, 2 digs, 2 blocks
Sarah Miller 23 digs, 2 set assists
Laura Cassady 1 kill
Paige Lothert 1 set assist
Hannah Kangas 1 ace serve, 14 digs, 0.5 blocks, 29 set assists
Courtney Ryan 8 kills, 5 digs, 0.5 blocks, 1 set assist
Taylor Johnshoy 10 kills, 9 digs, 0.5 blocks
Mikaela Chandler 5 kills, 8 digs, 2 blocks, 4 set assists
Tedi Ramberg 6 kills, 3 blocks
Jenna Degen 1 ace serve, 1 dig
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5856.