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Second-seeded Dragons defuse Chargers

ADRIAN -- Togetherness. That's what Avery Balster points to as a main reason for the Adrian volleyball team's success this season. And in the Section 3A playoffs on Friday night, the Dragons used their balance and teamwork to defeat seventh-seede...

Adrian vs Westbrook 3 web.jpg
Adrian's Avery Balster (13) fires a shot over W-WG's Camryn Bunting in South Sub-Section 3A Tournament action. (Aaron Hagen / The Globe)

ADRIAN - Togetherness.

That’s what Avery Balster points to as a main reason for the Adrian volleyball team’s success this season.

And in the Section 3A playoffs on Friday night, the Dragons used their balance and teamwork to defeat seventh-seeded Westbrook-Walnut Grove in three sets.

“I think we played the best we have all season,” Balster said. “It was a good game for us.”

AHS, which is the second seed in the tournament, improved to 25-3 this season after the 25-14, 25-16, 25-22 victory.

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“This is amazing. For Adrian volleyball to come this far, this is incredible. There are no words, I’m just happy about it,” Balster said. “This year has just been awesome. Everyone is coming together and communicating. It’s just something Adrian volleyball has never seen before and it’s really working for us this year. Everyone gets along with each other on and off the court. We just have fun. I think that’s the difference between last year and this year.”

Adrian had quick starts in the first two sets against the Chargers, jumping out to identical 20-10 leads each time.

“We were definitely happy with our starts,” Adrian head coach Brittany Jackson said. “Sometimes we struggle with our starts and we start slow. But I think we came out strong tonight. I think they came out confident tonight, and that’s a good way to start a game.”

Bailey Lonneman (nine kills) started the match with a kill and a block, but the teams were close early as AHS led 9-8. However, an ace from Shawna Rogers (nine blocks), a kill from Miah Kunkel (nine kills, 19 digs) and a kill from Balster capped an 11-1 run. From there, the Dragons were able to close out the first set.

“I was a little nervous coming out, I think we were all a little nervous,” Balster said. “But then we finally hit the court and we just wanted to play our game the best we could.”

The second set was nearly the same as the two teams were tied at 9. Again, Adrian went on an 11-1 run to lead 20-10.

“They played as a team, they played aggressive and didn’t give up,” Jackson said. “That’s all we ask. They followed through and accomplished our goals for the night.”

The third set was much tighter as the teams were tied at 10-all. A pair of aces from Kasie Tweet (three ace serves) gave the Dragons a lead. But despite being trailing 24-19, the Chargers didn’t go quietly.

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“We’re not strangers to comebacks,” W-WG head coach Meghann Westover said. “They are getting better about not getting down on themselves. But I think it’s especially hard with a game at the end of the season.”

W-WG was within two before the Dragons closed out the match.

AHS will face third-seeded Tracy-Milroy-Balaton at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday in Worthington.

“It is going to get harder,” Balster said. “We have some tough competitors coming up. I think if we keep doing what we’re doing and practicing hard like we do in practice, we’ll be able to compete.”

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