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Raiders advance to face Rebels with sweep of Panthers

LUVERNE -- The 12th seeded Ellsworth Panthers gave the sixth seeded Fulda Raiders all they could handle Monday night in the opening round of the sub-section 3A tournament.

Fulda, however, swept the Panthers in a tightly-contested match.

"It was a good match," Fulda head coach Jessica Hogan said. "We started out kind of sluggish, but then we found our rhythm there towards the end of Game 1."

After winning the first game, 25-22, Fulda (14-8-2) used a big run to capture Game 2, 25-13. The Raiders then won Game 3, 25-23, to win the match.

"I was very proud of how they played," Ellsworth head coach Leah Christie said. "In the third game, especially, to fight back after losing the second game, and to be a No. 12 seed and to give the six seed a pretty good fight."

After trailing early in Game 1, Ellsworth (3-20) used an ace from Courtney Dreesen (9-of-10, one ace) and Brooke Kix (12-of-12, one ace, 16 digs) in the midst of a 7-2 run to take a 13-11 lead.

After a tip by Fulda's Sam Raddle (18 set assists, two blocks, 12-of-13 serving), Ellsworth's Brooke Kramer (10-of-12, three aces, eight kills, five blocks) answered with two consecutive aces to push the lead to 16-12 -- forcing a Fulda timeout.

The Raiders slowly worked their way back into the game over the next few points.

Behind a tip from Brooke Kuehne, Fulda pulled within one point at 18-17.

With an ace from Fulda's Amy Paulzine (12-of-16 serving, one ace, nine kills, two blocks), the Raiders tied the game at 21. From then on, Fulda went on a 4-1 run to win the game, 25-22.

"We just stayed together and really focused on ball control," Hogan said of Game 1. "Every time they went on a little run, it was because our ball control wasn't helping matters at all. Once we got a hold on that, we could do what we wanted on offense, and that really helped us a lot."

Trailing by one game, Ellsworth jumped out to a 7-3 advantage in the second game.

After a Fulda timeout, the Raiders went on a 9-2 run to take the lead.

Later in the match, Fulda's Brittany Hulstein (17-of-17 serving, three aces) and Mari Holinka (seven kills, two blocks) each had a kill to push the Raider lead to 16-11.

"We weren't getting the ball passed up to our setter and making some poor decisions at the wrong time," Christie said.

After trailing 8-3, the Raiders closed on a 22-5 run en route to a 25-13 victory.

"It was just ball control in Game 2," Hogan said of the victory. "Our passing was so much better than in Game 1, and when we can pass, we can do things well."

With a lopsided second game, every point in the third game was highly contested.

Ellsworth held the early lead, but a 6-0 Fulda run gave the Raiders the lead at 7-3.

Out of a Panther timeout, Ellsworth went on a 9-5 run to tie the game at 12-all.

After a hit out of bounds by Ellsworth, the Panther's Brooke Kramer had three consecutive points as Ellsworth pulled ahead, 15-13.

Fulda eventually found itself leading 22-16, but Ellsworth wasn't going down without a fight.

The Panthers scored five straight points, including Becca Sieff's (nine digs) hit, to pull within one point.

Fulda once again scored late to pull out the close victory, 25-23.

"The first and third game, I think they played really well," Christie said. "Our serving was the best I've seen all season, and at the net in the first and third game, we were pretty scrappy. We struggled on our serve receive in the second game."

Fulda will advance to the second round Friday in Luverne.

"At tournament time, all bets are off, so a win means we get to live for another day," Hogan said. "We'll have three good practices, and we'll be ready to go on Friday."

However, the Raiders will face a tough challenge when they take on the No. 4 seeded Murray County Central Rebels at 7:30 p.m.

"MCC is a good team. They are going to be tough," Hogan said. "Our main goal is to just play them tougher than we did the first time around. We came out really really sluggish, and I didn't feel that we gave them our best shot. They're going to get our best shot on Friday."

Ellsworth ends their season after winning just three matches this year.

"It is disappointing," Christie said. "But the thing we have to look forward to is that we only lose one senior. So, we have a lot to look forward to next year."