Two days after Blaine’s 25-match Northwest Suburban Conference winning streak came to an end against Osseo, the Bengals (4-1, 2-1) started another winning streak with a 3-0 (25-13, 25-14, 25-20) sweep at Andover (2-7, 0-2).
Bengals coach Celeste Gorman said the rare home loss (25-18, 26-24, 25-19) was an early-season wake-up call.
“We have season-long goals and not individual goals,” she said. Of course they go into each match expecting a win, “but we know if we don’t [win] it’s not the end of the season. There is more to work on and it shows what else we need to work on.”
Blaine played without a real intensity and as Gorman said, “[Osseo] played great and it was like that perfect storm.”
Energy was something Gorman felt the team had more of Thursday, but still saw areas to work on.
“We wanted to keep [the ball] clean,” she said about consistently converting digs into sets and thoughtful attacking plays. “Tonight I felt we played sloppy and got a good thing going into Game 2 before [Morgan’s] injury.”
Blaine found a good rhythm on the road Thursday with big rallies including a 10-0 run to lead 19-8 in the opening set before winning it 25-13. Blaine built a 15-4 lead in the second set when front row starter Taylor Morgan collapsed to the floor after landing on her left leg.
Gorman along with the training staff helped Morgan to the bench where she remained for the rest of the set, with an ice-wrapped knee.
On the switch-over, after the set, Morgan moved to the trainer’s room and never returned to the gym.
After the game Gorman wasn’t sure the extent of the injury.
Although the Bengals put on a brave face and didn’t let their anxiety for their teammate’s health show through by their play, Gorman noticed it. “I think that messes with our rhythm a little bit. Obviously, it affects you to see a player go down like that.”
Senior Cadence Daniels took Morgan’s place in the rotation. “She did very well and she’s the kind of player that not much phases her,” Gorman said as Daniels was thrust into a key position.
A shaken Blaine team regrouped to win the set, despite Andover matching them point for point in the set.
Seniors Lydia Dimke and Jessica Jorgenson led the Bengals with 8 kills and 3 blocks each. Dimke, a Purdue recruit, had 3 aces along with Ellen Anderson. Brooke Christenson had 7 kills. Morgan led the team with 4 blocks.
Andover kept the third set close, tying the score at 8-8 and 13-13 but Blaine grew the lead to 21-16 to for an Andover time out. The home team cut the lead to within two points, 22-20 before Blaine won the final three points for the contest win.
Overall, Gorman felt Thursday’s performance was improved, but she was impressed by Andover’s ability to stick to their game plan. “They hit their shots and we need to defend better,” she said.
Andover coach Connie Huberty felt the team played significantly better than a 3-0 loss to Robbinsdale Armstrong, Sept. 10.
“We worked on the little things we needed to improve on [Wednesday at practice],” she said, pointing to a team motto to make little adjustments and improvements all match.
“Blaine’s got a great team and they’re a lot bigger than us and we had to figure out ways to keep our composure,” she said. “When we have opportunities we have to be smart about it.”
Not giving into frustration from one or two plays is another point Huberty is trying hammer home with a young Huskies team. “We have to stay relaxed and move on after a bad play.”
Huberty wanted to see her team limit the long run on points her team had conceded in earlier matches this season.
“How are we going to avoid that big run?” she said. “And when they do get that good pass, we have to execute.
“We have to keep working on tenacious defense and smart offense.”
Andover junior hitter Haley Tollette lead the team with 32 kills, 12 digs; classmate Amanda Hayko had 29 kills, 48 set assists, 47 digs and 9 aces and classmate Hannah Peterson led the team with 94 digs, 84 serve receives and five aces. Collectively the Huskies had 14 blocked shots.
Blaine didn’t lose a conference match since a 3-1 loss to Centennial Oct. 5, 2010 and has a remarkable 67-8 record in all competitions since then including consecutive section titles and the 2013 Class AAA state third place trophy. Blaine has two matches against Owatonna (Sept. 17) and Armstrong (Sept. 19) before the Apple Valley Invite, Sept. 20-21.
Andover travels to St. Michael-Albertville (Sept. 16) and Park Center (Sept. 19) before the Apple Valley Invite.
Jason Olson is at