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SAUK RAPIDS-RICE

Section 8AAA Volleyball

Champions

PHOTOS BY TOM FENTON

The Sauk Rapids-Rice volleyball team consists of assistant coach Kari Meyer (front, from left), Morgan Eggert, Darci Peterson, Kieryn Hirdler, Chelsey Vogel and Hailee Cullen; (second row, from left) assistant coach Gail Bialke, Jordyn Lee, Grace Urbowicz, Lexi Helmin, Ava Athman, Emma Portner and Delia Gustafson; (back, from left) assistant coach Taylor Gerdes, Lauren Schloe, Sophia Rothstein, Katelyn Anderson, head coach Karen Beckmann, Lexie Johnson and assistant coach Jenn Kranz. The Storm clinched the Section 8AAA championship in a win over Alexandria Nov. 6 in Melrose.

PHOTOS BY TOM FENTON

(Above) Members of the Sauk Rapids-Rapids volleyball program – Lauren Schloe (from left),), n Morgan Eggert, Chelsey Vogel, Ava Athman and assistant coaches Kari Meyer, Jenn nn Kranz and Taylor Gerdes – sprint from the AA bench to celebrate their Section 8AAA championship victory over Alexandria ria ool Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School in Melrose. The Storm qualified ent for their first state tournament since 1988.

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

SPECIAL KEEPSAKE EDITION


Page 2| Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Sauk Rapids-Rice Volleyball

Seniors relish chance to

fulfill longtime dream Chemistry from years together fuels run to state tournament BY TOM FENTON STAFF WRITER

They have grown up with the Sauk Rapids-Rice volleyball program. Off the court, they are side-by-side at Storm football games and other school events. Now, the three senior starters for the Storm – Darci Peterson, Hailee Cullen and Kieryn Hirdler – are fulfilling a dream that started in middle school. “The three of us always talked about, ‘We’re going to state,’” said Hirdler, a senior setter.

Chemistry page 3 PHOTO BY TOM FENTON

Seniors on the Sauk Rapids-Rice volleyball team include Sophia Rothstein (front, from left) Darci Peterson and Emma Portner; (back, from left), Chelsey Vogel, Hailee Cullen and Kieryn Hirdler. The Storm face secondseeded Kasson-Mantorville in the Minnesota State High School League Class AAA State Volleyball Tournament at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10. Not pictured is Brielle Andvick.

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Sauk Rapids-Rice Volleyball

Page 4| Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A LOOK FROM THE LOCKER ROOM The 2021 Sauk Rapids-Rice High School varsity volleyball team sounds off

Hailee Cullen

Kieryn Hirdler

No. 7 • Senior outside hitter Statistical highlights: 21 kills and 26 digs.

No. 2 •Senior setter Statistical highlights: 466 set assists, 11 kills, 45 ace serves and 119 digs.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. After the game, I was in shock. I immediately felt a relief and that all that work paid off. It still hasn’t fully hit me yet and I have a boost of adrenaline when I think about it, but I was mostly proud of my team. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It feels like one of the best accomplishments I’ve ever had in my life. I am excited and fulfilled to say, “We made it, we did that.” What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? What helped was us having a full lineup. Hailee Cullen is a huge asset to the team, and she has definitely brought that spark back. We also had team dinners and gained a connection that overpowers skill and helps us win games. What is your pre-game ritual? On the bus ride, I usually will put my phone away for the last five minutes and visualize myself doing everything we had practiced for that specific game. When we’re home, I’ll do the same thing but in the locker room. Then, as a team we do “Dog Cat,” a cheer to get us hyped. After that I’m usually prepared to give my all.

Katelyn Anderson

No. 4 • Sophomore right-side hitter Statistical highlights: 62 set assists, 32 digs and seven ace serves. Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. I was honestly feeling a bunch of different positive emotions. I felt like I was holding my breath just waiting for the moment I could exhale, and I knew, just as the last ball dropped, I could finally exhale. Once the ball landed, I just froze because I couldn’t believe it. We finally got what we had been working toward. It just felt so good. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? Crazy and so unreal. It feels good to be a part of something this exciting and special to SRR. It gives me a sense of pride to keep pushing, knowing my whole town is behind us. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? We started to think less and just play volleyball like we knew we could, and we wanted to win for each other more than ever. We all knew that if we didn’t do it now, then someone else was going to, and that just didn’t sit right with us. What is your pre-game ritual? My pre-game ritual consists of making sure I focus on my positive self-talk and lifting myself up to gain the confidence I know I have. Once I’m done with that, I love jamming out with my teammates to our favorite hype songs to get us hyped for the game.

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Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. It felt unreal. I couldn’t comprehend the number of screams and hugs that were coming from every direction possible. I felt overwhelming joy and I was incredibly proud of the team we had become. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It honestly is a dream come true. I’ve been playing volleyball with the majority of these girls since fifth grade. Coming into our freshman year of volleyball, Darci, Kieryn and I decided that our senior year we would go to state. For four years we worked extremely hard to reach this goal. We pushed ourselves and our teammates to be the best possible people and players we could be. Our team has grown to play as one and win as one. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? For me personally, I was released to return to play right before playoffs started. I knew that I had to give it my all and help lead the team to a goal we all knew was achievable. We knew that making state wouldn’t be easy, so we put in the work to prepare ourselves as best as possible. What is your pre-game ritual? My pre-game ritual is to blast music from my speaker while we all dance around and get hyped. I put my hair in a braid with white pre wrap and get ready for a great game. My post-game ritual is celebrating with my team and then giving Sauk Rapids Herald sports writer Tom Fenton a fist bump after he tells me, “Good game.”

Lexi Helmin

No. 10 • Junior hitter Statistical highlights: 141 kills, 67 blocks, 53 digs and 11 ace serves.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. The moment they called that last ball out, my stomach dropped. I am the biggest crybaby, but I could not even cry. I felt nothing but the word, “happy.” I don’t think my smile dropped off my face until the next morning. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? The feeling our team has is unmatchable. Since the beginning of the season, we’ve told everyone we were going to make it to state, and nobody believed us. It’s crazy to prove them all wrong. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? Hailee Cullen. She was our missing puzzle piece that we found just in time. With that puzzle piece, everything came together; our holes were filled and the team chemistry is higher than ever. What is your pre-game ritual? Eating CheezIts on the bus or in the locker room, and making TikToks. The “Dog Cat” chant is my favorite.

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Delia Gustofson

No. 8 • Sophomore defensive specialist Statistical highlights: 32 digs.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. Just pure excitement. I didn’t even know what to say. I couldn’t stop the happy tears. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? I am so proud of everyone, and I feel like this group of girls is so talented when we work together. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? Things just started clicking between people, and we all knew the goals and had nothing to lose. Everyone went out and gave everything. What is your pre-game ritual? “Dog Cat” as a team. I always get a tea from Active Nutrition, and Grace and I give each other pep talks.

Morgan Eggert

No. 11 • Junior right-side hitter Statistical highlights: 70 kills and 67 digs.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. I could not believe what just happened. I thought the hit was in and my heart dropped, but then they called it out. I remember jumping up and then I remember being on the court with the girls. I started crying and I was so happy. It didn’t feel real and it still doesn’t. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It is amazing to know that we as a team, made history. We didn’t have a dominating season, but we all came together to get it. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? We started to lay it all out there. Every single one of us wanted to win and go to state. We pushed ourselves harder than we ever had. We trusted each other and had fun. What is your pre-game ritual? My pre-game ritual is listening to a motivational speech to give me confidence and get me pumped up. Then, I listen to music either by myself or with Grace. I also focus on what I need to do and go through scenarios in my head and practice making the perfect pass and hitting the ball to the perfect spot.

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Sauk Rapids-Rice Volleyball

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | Page 5

Ava Athman

No. 14 Sophomore middle hitter Statistical highlights: 133 kills, 59 digs, 31 blocks and 24 ace serves. Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. Positively overwhelming. I felt so much joy and couldn’t stop smiling. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? I am so grateful to be a part of a team that has made it this far and has the accomplishment of adding a new plaque into the trophy case. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? The shift in confidence. We had to find the right mindset to believe in ourselves, and we achieved that. What is your pre-game ritual? “Dog Cat” with the team and writing down goals for the game.

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Brielle Andvik

No. 15 • Senior outside hitter Statistical highlights: Seven kills, 24 digs and four ace serves.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. I was super excited and proud of the team because we have been dreaming of state since day one. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? Being the first team to go to state since 1988 makes me feel so proud to be represent SRR volleyball, and it makes me feel like all the hard work we put in practice has been showing. The group of girls and the bond everyone has shows on the court. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? Everyone showed up for practice ready to give it their all and ready to put in the time and effort. We all knew we could make it to state, and we wanted to prove it to everyone else. What is your pre-game ritual? Dancing and singing in the locker room with the team, having fun and doing our “Dog Cat” cheer right before we run in.

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Jordyn Lee No. 16 • Sophomore outside hitter Statistical highlights: 92 kills, 109 digs and 26 ace serves.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. As soon as that ball hit the floor, I knew we had won, but it didn’t even feel real. We had talked so much about accomplishing our goal and making it to state, and we finally were living that moment instead of simply talking about it. I felt so proud of each person on my team. Every one of us had worked so hard for this. I cried tears of pure joy, and I don’t cry that often. I have never been so happy. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It feels amazing. We have worked so hard and going to state has constantly been a goal for each one of us for a very long time. It still feels surreal; once I walk into the Xcel Energy gym, it will finally hit me. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? We realized this was our one chance to make it to state. We all realized that if we lost one game it was all over, and none of us were ready to give up. We all wanted it badly; we just played with everything we had, leaving it all on the court. We played fearless and confident because we had nothing to lose. What is your pre-game ritual? I have to eat something. Active Nutrition and Panera are my go-to places. I have Morgan braid my hair. Then, I take deep breaths to calm my nerves; I like to imagine myself playing on the court. I do my approach and footwork in my head, and it helps me feel less frantic.

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Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. The whole game was leading up to this moment. I couldn’t sit still from all of the excitement and nerves coursing through me. It was unbelievable. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It feels so good to be a part of a team that is making history. We are all in this together. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? Focusing during times that it is needed. We knew what we need to work on and what we need to know about the other teams. We prepared ourselves well. What is your pre-game ritual? Playing music that hypes us up and thinking about goals we want to accomplish.

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Sauk Rapids-Rice Volleyball

Page 6| Wednesday, November 10, 2021

A LOOK FROM THE LOCKER ROOM Sophia Rothstein

Darci Peterson

No. 20 • Senior right-side hitter Statistical highlights: 42 kills, 18 digs and seven blocks.

No. 23 Senior outside hitter Statistical highlights: 146 kills, 172 digs, 28 blocks, 39 set assists and 21 ace serves.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. It took me a while to comprehend the fact that we got the winning point of the last set, but once I realized, I joined the group hug of my teammates on the court. I started crying out of joy and was celebrating the amazing win with my team. It didn’t feel real for the longest time, and it still hasn’t really hit me that we are going to state. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It feels really good to have made history in the school and program. It is exciting to make it so far after so many talented teams have gone through the program. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? As a team we decided we were going to put everything out on the court. We have been saying the entire year that this was going to be the time we make it to state, and through all of our preparation and hard work, we finally made it. What is your pre-game ritual? Everyone gets dressed and does each other’s hair in the locker room. Then we all scream “Dog Cat” as a team. Music is always blaring in the locker room to get everybody excited.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. It didn’t feel real to me and definitely hasn’t hit me yet. I was beyond excited and the happiest I have been in my life. I had felt some sort of relief as I know that our hard work paid off. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It feels amazing, especially to be the captain of a team that is hard-working. We have been preparing for this day all season, and going to state has been my dream since I started playing volleyball. We had our minds set on a goal that was achieved and very deserved. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? Although the season did not start off as planned, we worked hard in practice and tried our hardest in the regular season to get through our hardships together as a team. It helped that Hailee Cullen was able to begin playing again as she is a large aspect of the team and an important team player. We all had our minds set on the same goal of becoming section champions. What is your pre-game ritual? As a team, we do our “Dog Cat” chant along with the “Let’s Go, Let’s Fight” chant. As an individual, I visualize myself doing what I need to do in the game to make myself and the team successful.

Lauren Schloe

Emma Portner

No. 21 Freshman right-side hitter Statistical highlights: Eight kills.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. I was so happy and filled with emotions. It felt so unreal and it didn’t set in until we got on the bus to go home. I am so proud of this whole team. We worked so hard working up to this and it paid off. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? This is an incredible experience to be a part of and I am beyond grateful for having this opportunity and so grateful to be a part of this team. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? Coming together as a team and knowing what we really wanted and knowing what our goal was. What is your pre-game ritual? We all listen to music together and my favorite part of our pre-game is our “Dog Cat” chant. It gets everyone hyped and gets everyone in a good mood.

(Injured list) Senior defensive specialist, setter

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. I was in complete shock and started bawling. I couldn’t believe what just happened and I was so happy. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? It is an honor to be a part of such an amazing team and accomplish a goal we have all been wanting. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? We all showed up to practice, ready to prepare for Alexandria. We all put in the effort and hard work. We knew that we could go to state, we just had to prove it. What is your pre-game ritual? Dancing in the locker room while eating ice.

The 2021 Sauk Rapids-Rice High School varsity volleyball team sounds off

Grace Urbowicz

No. 26 Junior libero Statistical highlights: 169 digs.

Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. When I found out we won and, in the huddle, when the rest of the team ran to us on the court, I had this sense of disbelief that what we have been working hard for had finally happened. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? I feel a part of something so huge and it gives me chills just thinking about it. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? For me a huge factor was talking to so many people who believed in me and what I was capable of. It helped my motivation which brought our defense up a lot. It was also helpful that Hailee Cullen was back because her, Darci, and I run that back row together. What is your pre-game ritual? My pregame ritual is listening to my music and closing my eyes to think about the win that will follow the night.

Chelsey Vogel

No. 22 Senior outside hitter Statistical highlights: Six kills and three digs. Describe your emotions in the minutes after the section championship victory. I was beyond happy, but I wasn’t surprised with all of our hard work and dedication we have put into this season. We wanted this more than anything, so we pushed and pushed. When we won, I remember running as fast as I could to celebrate the win. My emotions were all over the place. How does it feel to be the first SRRHS volleyball team to go to state since 1988? I am grateful for this opportunity and for being a part of such a fun team. The grind and work we put in paid off. It’s so rewarding, and I can’t wait to walk on the state floor. What were some of the factors in turning this season around in time for playoffs? Coming together as one and knowing our goal. We had troubles throughout the season of knowing what we really wanted. What is your pre-game ritual? “Dog Cat” chant. The chant gets everyone super hyped up to go out and kill it.

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Sauk Rapids-Rice Volleyball

Page 8| Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Sensational

Storm

SRR volleyball stuns Alexandria to reach state tournament BY TOM FENTON STAFF WRITER

PHOTO BY TOM FENTON

Sauk Rapids-Rice volleyball players Darci Peterson (from left), Kieryn Hirdler, Lexi Helmin and head coach Karen Beckmann celebrate the team’s 3-1 victory over Alexandria in the Section 8AAA championship Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School. The Storm defeated top-seeded Alexandria in four sets.

the first set, it really shook them, and we kept coming at them hard,” said sophomore Ava Athman, who The fact the Sauk Rapids-Rice had eight kills and four blocks. “I’m volleyball team topped Alexandria honestly in awe right now. It just for the Section 8AAA title Nov. 6 came down to wanting to achieve likely came as a surprise to many. our goal. Everything clicked. We Not included in that group were the worked together as a team and it all Storm players. fell into place. We wanted this one.” The team talked confidently The Storm will play in the about their chances against heavily Minnesota State High School favored Alexandria, and they obviLeague Class AAA State Volleyball ously believed it. The Storm blew Tournament quarterfinals past the Cardinals in four sets in Wednesday, Nov. 10, at Xcel front of a large and ear-splitting Energy Center in St. Paul. Sauk crowd at Melrose Area High School Rapids-Rice will take on No. 2 seed to reach the state tournament for Kasson-Mantorville at 7 p.m. on the first time since 1988. Scores Court 2. were 25-18, 13-25, 25-18 and 25-22. Section champs page 9 “When we came out and won

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Section champs from page 8 “I literally think my soul left my body,” said senior Hailee Cullen, who had nine kills and 10 digs. “I can’t explain it. It didn’t hit me until five minutes after and people were screaming, then I started bawling. I can’t stop shaking. We knew the way we’re playing right now that we had a shot. We’re one unit right now.” Alexandria (26-2) defeated SRR twice during the regular season while only losing one set. The Cardinals were the overwhelming top seed in the section and were ranked fifth in Class AAA. The Storm (13-16) had other ideas. They came out aggressive from the opening point and served notice they would not go away quietly, taking a 17-8 lead in the opening set on their way to a convincing win. The Cardinals got the wakeup call and won the second set in the same fashion. SRR did not panic, pulling to an 18-14 lead in the third set. “We decided to start back at 0-0 with our record and knew we only needed to win three games to make it to state,” junior hitter Morgan Eggert said. “We knew we could do it, and we all had the confidence in each other. We just came together to pull it off.” The fourth set was a back-andforth affair, featuring many ties and lead changes. The Storm scored two straight points to pull ahead 21-19, leading to an Alexandria timeout.

Like it did all night, SRR found a way to finish, clinching a victory and a wild celebration. “We were so confident coming in and they were pretty cocky coming into it, so we worked really hard to prepare and it paid off,” said senior Darci Peterson, who had team-best 12 kills and 14 digs. “It doesn’t feel real. I tried to cry, but I was just so happy I didn’t know what to do. I dropped to the floor and found my favorite person, Hailee. It’s so amazing.” Senior Kieryn Hirdler led the Storm offense with 32 set assists to go along with four digs. Lexi Helmin added five kills and two blocks, Sophia Rothstein had four kills and two digs, Grace Urbowicz had nine digs from the libero position, and Katelyn Anderson added three digs for the Storm. For coach Karen Beckmann, who is in her fourth year leading the program, the victory was a culmination of a team that has been steadily progressing since mid-October. “We had been practicing really hard and looking at what they do, what we do and what we need to do to overcome them,” Beckmann said. “The last three weeks, it’s been coming together. They’ve been overcoming things and not quitting. The part that was cool is when things weren’t clicking, they sat down, talked about it and figured it out.”

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Champions Sauk Rapids-Rice junior libero Grace Urbowicz prepares for a se serve receive in the Storm’s SSection 8AAA cchampionship game against A Alexandria Nov. 6 aat Melrose Area High School. Urbowicz had nine digs in tthe four-set victory.

(Above) Lexi Helmin tips the ball over an Alexandria blocker in the Section 8AAA championship Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School. Helmin finished with five kills in the four-set victory.

PHOTOS BY TOM FENTON

Sauk Rapids-Rice sophomore Ava Athman goes up for one of her eight kills Nov. 6 in Melrose. Athman added four blocks (Left) Sophomore Katelyn Anderson passes the ball as the Storm defeated to a teammate on a service receive Nov. 6 against Alexandria in four sets Alexandria in Melrose. Anderson had three digs in the in the Section 8AAA Section 8AAA championship victory. championship.

Sauk Rapids-Rice players Kieryn Hirdler (left) and Lexi Helmin go up for a block during the Section 8AAA championship Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School. Helmin had two blocks to help the Storm to a 3-1 victory over Alexandria.

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(Above) Lexi Helmin (from left) leads an emotional bench that includes assistant coaches Kari Meyer, Jenn Kranz and Taylor Gerdes after a winning point in the Section 8AAA championship Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School. The Storm defeated Alexandria in four sets. (Left) Senior Darci Peterson goes up for a block as the Storm faced Alexandria in the Section 8AAA title game Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School. Peterson led a balanced offensive attack with 12 kills.

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Sauk Rapids-Rice Volleyball

2021 Class AAA

Wednesday, November 10, 2021 | Page 11

Volleyball

TOURNAMENT

No. 1 Marshall Wednesday, Nov. 10, 5 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 2) St. Paul Highland Park

No. 4 Monticello

Friday, Nov. 12, 5 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 1)

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 5 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 1) No. 5 Grand Rapids

CHAMPION Saturday, Nov. 13, 5 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 2)

No. 2 Kasson-Mantorville Wednesday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 2) Sauk Rapids-Rice

No. 3 New Prague

Friday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 1)

Wednesday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 1) Chisago Lakes

PHOTOS BY TOM FENTON

Ava Athman leaps for a block as the Sauk RapidsRice volleyball team faced Alexandria in the Section 8AAA championship Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School. The Storm are set to face second-seeded Kasson-Mantorville at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 10, at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Third Place

Loser Quarterfinal 1 Friday, Nov. 12, 5 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 2)

Loser Quarterfinal

Saturday, Nov. 13, 11 a.m. Xcel Center (Court 1)

CONSOLATION WINNER

Loser Quarterfinal 1 Friday, Nov. 12, 7 p.m. Xcel Center (Court 2)

Loser Quarterfinal

Senior Hailee Cullen (left) and sophomore Katelyn Anderson cannot hide their excitement after Cullen threw down an emphatic block against Alexandria Nov. 6 at Melrose Area High School. Cullen finished with nine kills and 10 digs to help the Storm to a four-set victory.

Lexi Helmin (left) and Sophia Rothstein enjoy a light moment after a winning point Nov. 6 in Melrose. The Storm had plenty of reason to smile in their four-set win over Alexandria.


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