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Volleyball: Knights keep the 2AA crown

Maddie McCauley (7) and the Kenyon-Wanamingo volleyball team celebrate after scoring a point in the first set of Saturday's Section 2AA championship match against Southwest Christian at the Lund Center in St. Peter. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 5
Kenyon-Wanamingo's Chelsea Gilster tips the ball over the reach of a Southwest Christian defender during Saturday's Section 2AA championship game at the Lund Center in St. Peter. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 5
Kenyon-Wanamingo's Ally Peterson (6) blasts the ball past Southwest Christian's Carly Watchorn (15) during the first set of Saturday's Section 2AA championship match at the Lund Center in St. Peter. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 5
Kenyon-Wanamingo's Megan Mattson hits against a pair of Southwest Christian blockers during Saturday's Section 2AA championship match at the Lund Center in St. Peter. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 5
Head coach Jen Nerison and the rest of the Kenyon-Wanamingo bench celebrate during the second set of Saturday's Section 2AA championship match against Southwest Christian at the Lund Center in St. Peter. Joe Brown / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 5

ST. PETER — Southwest Christian had all the momentum.

The Stars scored four straight points, including a block that put the team ahead 17-12 in the first set of the Section 2AA championship against Kenyon-Wanamingo.

But, the Knights weren't shaken. It didn't matter that it was late in the set.

"We definitely didn't start out strong but we knew we wanted it," said sophomore outside hitter Ally Peterson. "We knew we needed to play hard. We wanted it so bad so we knew we had to start playing harder."

A tip from Corynne Dahl, two kills down the line from Peterson and two straight SWC attacking errors tied the match up at 17-17.

And K-W wasn't done there. The Knights ended the first set on a 13-1 run and used that momentum to clinch a second-straight state berth with a sweep in the section championship game on Saturday, 25-18, 25-15, 25-20.

"It was tough, but we knew we could do it," said K-W senior setter Maddie McCauley. "We came in today and we knew we could do it and have this outcome. We just stuck with it mentally and we executed physically."

After the first set, the Stars (23-9) were out of sorts. The biggest run they could put together after the first set was four points midway through the third set.

"Once we win the first set, we know we can keep pushing," said Knights' senior libero Sydney Way. "Our coach was pushing us and saying, 'Let's get this in three tonight.' And that was really in our heads all night."

After that first-set victory, K-W (22-7) sensed the match was theirs.

"I think they thought they had that one," McCauley said. "When we came back, all the momentum was on our side and we just took it. They didn't have anything left after that."

Offensively, it started with Peterson finding the line on the left side. Once SWC's defense had to adjust, that opened the floor for the rest of the Knights' hitters.

"I just saw where the defense was in the back row and the block and I tried to go where they weren't," Peterson said. "I tried to see the openings the best I could. My setter was putting it in the right spot for me."

McCauley added, "We just worked on mixing it up and spreading it out and not just going to the same place. We had to keep them on their toes."

A year after finishing third place in the Class AA tournament, the Knights enter this year's tournament unseeded and will face top-seeded Maple Lake (33-0) at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

"I'm feeling so proud," said K-W head coach Jen Nerison. "I'm proud of these girls. We started a little shaky on Thursday (in the South sub-section finals) but they flipped it today and they came out focused. They had their eye on the prize and went after it."

Joe Brown

Joe Brown is the sports editor for the Red Wing Republican Eagle. Previously, he worked at the Marshall Independent and the St. Cloud Times. For updates on local sports, follow Joe on Twitter at @RE_JBrown.

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