BELLE PLAINE – “It’s going to be the biggest match of our lives.”
Those words uttered by Belle Plaine senior libero Lizzy Eischens not more than five minutes after defeating Watertown-Mayer 25-13, 25-18, 25-16 Tuesday night in Belle Plaine. Eischens wasn’t talking about the Royals their opponent Tuesday night, no, she was talking about their next opponent Jordan who they will face for the fourth straight year in the playoffs and the third year in a row and thirteenth overall in that span.
That’s what happens when you have rival schools who are a mere eight miles away along a simple drive along Highway 169. In three weeks students from both schools will start wrestling practice together as Scott West, but Thursday night the best rivalry in Class AA will take center stage at Gus Young Court on the campus of Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
The winner moves onto section championship the loser gets to live with an off season of knowing that their biggest rival finished their season. Imagine if for four straight years the Vikings and Packers faced in the playoffs. That’s what this friendly rivalry equivalent would be. There is no hatred between the players and the coaches in fact every time they match up both teams speak glowingly about the other. It’s about two teams that bring out the best in each other and finding out who is the best.
Let’s go back to Tuesday night. It was a night that saw Belle Plaine come blazing out of the gate getting their junior middle hitter Jordan Going early kills and forcing the Watertown-Mayer block to adjust. Countered with Belle Plaine senior middle hitter Abby Wolpern taking away the attack of Watertown-Mayer leading attacker Maggie Perrel with her strong block at the net. Belle Plaine started with 15-4 lead and would cruise to a 25-13 win.
The second set would once again see Belle Plaine on the attack from the beginning this time using the outside attack of Haley Fogarty and Kirsten Johnson to get out to a 19-10 lead. Watertown-Mayer would not go away as the knuckle serve of Marissa Janning would spur a 6-0 run that forced Belle Plaine head coach Cassie Wolpern to use a timeout for the only time in the night. After reminder her girls that they need to play hard and that it’s playoff volleyball Belle Plaine would fight and win the second set 25-18.
The third set saw a change to the script of the first two sets with Watertown-Mayer gaining the early 3-1 lead. Then senior Abby Wolpern in her final game at Belle Plaine high school would get a big block and kill on back to back points and junior Claire Otto on the serve would keep the Royals on their heels and take a 7-3 lead. The set would stay tight until Belle Plaine would go on a 4-0 run to make the score 19-12 and would cruise to a 25-16 win in the third set.
So with Jordan winning Tuesday night over Mound-Westonka 25-18, 28-26, 25-12 it sets up the big showdown.
Belle Plaine is 22-7 on the season, Jordan is 18-10 on the season. They match up at 6pm on Thursday.
The players, coaches, and fans can’t wait, just like Lizzy Eischens.
By: Adam Bartels