By PATRICK SLACK
Going into its Sub-Section 6AA North semifinal match, fourth-seeded Pierz knew it faced an uphill climb, squaring off against three-time defending section champion Sauk Centre.
The Pioneers didn’t shy from the challenge, giving the Mainstreeters everything they could handle early on before Sauk Centre pulled away for a 23-25, 25-11, 25-16, 25-13 home win, Tuesday.
Pierz rallied from a 23-21 deficit to take the final four points and the first set of the match, before Sauk Centre rebounded by taking the second set convincingly.
The swing point of the match came in the third set, as Sauk Centre erased a 12-10 Pierz lead and closed the set by taking 10 of 12 points to take the lead.
The Pioneers cut an 18-4 gap in the fourth set to 18-10 with six points in a row, but found the hole too large to dig out of.
Pierz turned to star hitter Bridget Bednar for half of its attacking attempts, with the senior flooring 23 kills.
Junior Raychel Virnig followed with seven kills and junior Jessica Hawks produced 31 set assists.
Senior Lea Uzalac steadied the defense with 22 digs, with Virnig making 19 and senior Tiara Hopkins collecting 16.
Pierz finished the season with a record 19-10, placing third in the Central Minnesota Conference.
Seniors for this year’s Pioneers included Brittany Smieja, Uzalac, Kim Litke, Alex Lucken, Bednar, Paige Reardon and Hopkins.
Pioneers avenge earlier loss
Pierz reached the sub-section semifinals by virtue of a 25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 25-22 victory over visiting fifth-seeded Little Falls, Oct. 25, reversing a five-set defeat from 11 days prior.
Bednar was the leading hitter for the Pioneers with 18 kills, while Hopkins turned in a big night as the No. 2 option, hitting an efficient 15 kills on only 32 attempts.
Virnig followed with nine kills and junior Kayla Carter contributed six, with Hawks passing out 41 set assists and delivering four service aces.
Defensively, Virnig led Pierz with 16 digs and Bednar posted 14.
Junior Kendra Pohlman powered the Little Falls attack with 17 kills, with senior Sierra Virnig hitting 11 and senior Brooke Finch and sophomore Melanie Dorn each adding five.
Reaching double digits in digs for the Flyers were Virnig (27), Dorn (20), Pohlman (19), senior Tristen Zimmerman (13) and Finch (12), with Dorn posting a team-high 20 set assists.
Little Falls finished the season with a record of 13-14, placing fourth in the Granite Ridge Conference.
Seniors on this year’s team for the Flyers included Zimmerman, Jennifer Ronning, Finch, Virnig, Haley Kimman and Brittani DeDomines.
Huskers fall in first round
Sixth-seeded Holdingford traveled to No. 3 Melrose Area in the first round, Oct. 25, falling 25-13, 25-20, 25-12.
Senior Samantha Maciej led the Huskers with six kills and eight digs.
Holdingford finished the season with a record of 9-18-2.
Seniors on this year’s team for the Huskers included Megan Ruprecht, Vanessa Prokott, Madison Vogt, Maciej, Jaryn Olson, Anna Warzecha and Cortney Kostreba.