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Cougars roll Bucs: No. 8 seed Heart River upsets, sweeps top seed Beach

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Heart River senior middle blocker Desiree Johnson, left, hits past Beach’s Bailey Waldal during the quarterfinals of the Region 7 Tournament on Monday at Knights of Columbus Activities Center. The No. 8 seed Cougars upset top seed Beach 3-0.

By Royal McGregor

Six days.

The last time the Heart River and Beach volleyball teams met on the volleyball court was six days ago.

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In the matchup on Nov. 5, the Buccaneers came away with a five-set win over the Cougars.

The No. 8-seed Heart River remembered the loss and came out firing to sweep top-seed Beach 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 during in the quarterfinals of the Region 7 Tournament on Monday at Knights of Columbus Activities Center.

“I think even before the game against Beach on Tuesday, we have been playing a little better each time,” Heart River head coach Hope Volesky said. “We were just feeding off that and just knowing we took them to five last week that we could do it this week.

“We knew coming in that if we even let up for one minute. That could be the game. We definitely had our down moments, but we were able to pick ourselves back up pretty quickly.”

Heart River opened the floodgates quickly and jumped out to a 13-5 lead in the first set. However, the Buccaneers fought back to come within one point, 15-14, after a Heart River attacking error. The Cougars turned around to finish out the opening set on a 10-5 run as Karli Northrop knocked down a set-winning kill.

The second set was no different — Heart River jumped out to an early lead and never let up.

“We were really mentally prepared and kind of scared coming out,” Heart River senior middle blocker Desiree Johnson said. “We just pulled through and played as a team.”

The Cougars took a 13-7 lead after a Johnson kill. Though they managed to break up runs here and there, the Buccaneers never fully got going.

“We never really got going and I was kind of hoping we’d get some momentum going our way,” Beach head coach Shae Peplinski said. “We just kept digging a hole and digging a bigger hole. We never kind of came back on top.”

During the second set, the closest Beach came to Heart River was three points after Channa Clarin and Bailey Waldal teamed up on a block. The Cougars responded with three straight points and was punctuated on an Alex Poland ace. Heart River finished out the set with back-to-back Nettie Splichal kills.

The part of the Heart River’s game, which gave Beach fits on Nov. 5, was its defense. The Cougars picked up nearly everything the Buccaneers put down.

“It’s exciting,” said Poland, who is the Cougars’ libero. “It helps us to trust the other players that if we get the dig up someone else is going to be there to get that second ball.”

Peplinski added: “They are probably the best defensive team in the region. They hustle after everything. They were just waiting for us to make an error and we made them.”

Beach’s best shot to win a set was early on in the third after taking a 12-6 lead on a Chantel Fulton ace. The Cougars continued to fight and claw their way back. Eventually, Heart River did take a 15-13 lead as Poland knocked down back-to-back aces.

From then the Buccaneers didn’t retake the lead, but managed to tie the set 17-17 as Clarin ripped back-to-back kills. Splichal responded with a kill, Mara Obrigewitch ripped a pair of aces and Northrop knocked down a kill as the Cougars took a 21-17 lead. Heart River finished off the sweep with a 4-1 run as Mikayla Raskin hit an ace and Beach committed an attacking error to close out the set.

“We knew after we played them (last Tuesday) that they were going to come out here and swing harder than ever,” Johnson said. “We knew if we had good passes and our serves were in that we had a good chance to win.”

The Cougars continued their quest for the Region 7 title playing No. 4 seed Beulah in the semifinals at 6 p.m. today.

“(Today) we’re going to come back and hopefully pass and hit better and come away with another win,” Poland said with a smile.

HR 25 25 25 — 0

Beach 19 20 18 — 3

Stats no available