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Volleyball: Bombers scrappy in loss to Stewartville

CANNON FALLS - For a team coming off of its first loss, the Cannon Falls volleyball team left the locker room on Tuesday awfully upbeat.

Facing Hiawatha Valley League powerhouse Stewartville, which is ranked No. 2 in Class AA, the Bombers gave the Tigers all they could handle before ultimately succumbing in three sets. Stewartville won 25-23, 25-19, 25-21.

"Especially in the first set, we just really wanted to win because we've never really had a close match with them," said Cannon Falls junior outside hitter Carly Broze. "Even though we lost, we're all really proud. Everything that we worked on improved in that game."

Early on in the first set, it was the Bombers that were pushing around the Tigers, who finished as the Class AA runners-up in 2011. Capitalizing on Stewartville's errors, and with Broze and senior middle hitter MaKenzie Franklin pounding balls to the floor, Cannon Falls led 10-6, forcing Stewartville to take a timeout.

Even with the break, the Bombers continued to keep the Tigers off-balance, going up 19-14 and forcing Stewartville hall of fame head coach John Dzubay to call his second timeout.

"I told the girls, 'This is a state-ranked team, and when you got him calling his two timeouts before I call my one, I'm pretty excited about that,'" said Bombers head coach Melissa Huseth.

The timeout proved to be beneficial for Stewartville as they regrouped and won seven of the next nine points to tie the first set at 21. From there, senior middle hitter Paige Tapp took over. Without her All-State sister, Hannah, in the lineup, Paige picked up the slack with two straight kills to close out the first set. Paige Tapp finished with a game-high 14 kills, but the Bombers made her fight for every swing.

"I thought we served well and she didn't have very many hard hits because of it," Huseth said. "She gets up really high and she can see holes. She got some tips and got some points on us that way."

The two teams continued to slug it out in the second set with nine ties. With the second set tied at 13, the Tigers tacked on five straight points, fueled by a pair of kills by Jenna Willenborg. Down 21-15, the Bombers pieced together a four-point run, finished off by a pair of kills by Broze, to cut the deficit to 21-19.

Cannon Falls showed some fight, but the Tigers closed the second set with four straight points to go up 2-0 heading into the third set.

"If we just would have taken the first game, we maybe would have set the tone for the second game," Huseth said.

Jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the third set, Stewartville never surrendered the lead on the way to the sweep.

Broze led Cannon Falls with seven kills, while Lydia Franken added 17 set assists. Franklin had six kills and three ace blocks, and libero Becca Vanderheuvel had 20 digs and finished a perfect 19 of 19 in service returns.

Liz Waugh added nine kills for the Tigers (3-0 HVL, 7-1), and setters Stephanie Schmidt and Blair Honsey had 17 and 16 set assists, respectively.

The Bombers (2-1 HVL, 3-0) may have gotten the loss, but they left their home court with their heads held high. Cannon Falls hits the road Thursday for an HVL game against Triton.

"We're definitely not down about it," Broze said. "A win would have been very nice, we were all looking forward to it, but we're really proud of how we played. It was a fun match."