CLASS A STATE VOLLEYBALL: Buhr’s hot serving helps Crusaders shake off early nerves in sweep of Ely

ST. PAUL – There’s nothing more that Mayer Lutheran volleyball coach Joelle Grimsley hates more than taking a timeout. Unfortunately for her, one was needed early on as the Crusaders were forced to shake off a sluggish start but responded in a big way in a 3-0 (25-23, 25-13, 25-16) sweep of Ely in the Class A state quarterfinals Thursday night.

“We were a little sporadic,” Grimsley said. “We came out a little cold and they were on fire and kept it really close. We just had to keep digging. We were a little bit tense with the pressure on the other side of the net. It was good to see them fight through it.”

Ely came out ready to roll looking to avenge a loss to the Crusaders in the quarterfinals a year ago. The Timberwolves were on the verge of striking first leading 21-17 but Mayer Lutheran dug deep following a timeout by Grimsley.

“I think I told them to buck up and get focused,” Grimsley said. “I teased them a little bit that it’s the red court they have to hit and not the blue court. They just needed to refocus. We had a lot of freshmen out there so we had to get back to it and refocus.”

They did just that.

Mayer Lutheran finished the opening set on an 8-2 run to take a 1-0 lead with a 25-23 lead. Mari Buhr served up the big run down the stretch for the Crusaders helping take control of the match.

“We just switched that up a few weeks ago,” Grimsley said about Buhr serving. “All of a sudden we saw that she could serve so we decided to start letting her serve. She’s just steady. She’s our secret little weapon over there now. She just goes right where I tell her almost every time. It’s fun to see her step in because we didn’t know we’d ever see that.”

Mayer Lutheran carried the momentum over into set two running away with things but Ely showed they had some fight left to open set three. The Timberwolves jumped out to a 7-2 lead early and forced Grimsley to take a second timeout as the Crusaders trailed 13-8.

“In between sets two and three, when I got to the bench they were a little bit silly and I didn’t like that at all,” she said. “We started that set really slow and we needed to focus and we were so unfocused to start. They kind of thought they had it in the bag and you don’t. People lose when they are up 2-0. At that moment we talked about just focusing.”

Junior Marley Martin helped calm things down on the floor with a kill as Mayer Lutheran began to chip away.

“I was just telling them to take deep breaths and realize it’s just another game,” Marley Martin said about trying to lead the underclassmen. “We just needed to block out (everything). We were a little all over the place trying to take things and see everything.”

Martin’s words of wisdom worked out as Buhr served up another big run for the Crusaders helping them finish the third set on a 17-3 run to complete the sweep and send them to the Class A semifinals.

“It was Mari serving that got them out of system,” Danica Martin said. “They sent over a few (free balls) and we were able to run our fast offense. We had three strong hitters up there with Mari serving and that got us going.”

With the win, Mayer Lutheran advances to the Class A semifinals where they will take on No. 3 Mabel-Canton. The Cougars swept unseeded Badger-Green Bush/Middle River in their quarterfinal matchup.

“They beat us earlier this year,” Grimsley said. “We have a big job to do tomorrow. They’re going to be tough. We’re going to have to come out right away and play hard and play better.”

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