The first time the Nicollet volleyball team played Martin County West this season, the Raiders lost in five games. The teams met again on Thursday in the Section 2A, South Subsection championship match and Nicollet opted not to change a thing.

“We were committed to playing them exactly the way we did the first time,” Nicollet senior Jenna Mettler said afterward. “We believed in our game plan and were determined to stick with it.”

It turned out to be a smart strategy as the Raiders knocked off top-seeded MCW 25-15, 22-25, 25-20, 25-21 to advance to the Section 2A championship game.

Martin County West presented problems for Nicollet at the net as juniors Alyssa Taylor and Maggie Prunty had the size advantage. The Raiders decided to neutralize that height advantage in two different ways.

“I went line-to-line with most of my attacks instead of trying to go down the middle,” said Mettler, who finished with 16 kills. “I knew they could put up a formidable block.”

Nicollet’s Kayla Wenner took a different approach: “We knew if we hit the ball hard enough it would get through most of the time. We just had to be prepared for the times it didn’t. We had to be ready to dig out their blocks.”

In Game 1, the Raiders were leading 14-13 when they scored seven straight points. Two kills by Wenner and an ace serve by Anna Skrien led the surge. After MCW closed the gap to 21-15, Nicollet closed out the game with four straight kills by Mettler.

With the Mavericks leading 19-18 in Game 2, they scored four consecutive points to take a 23-18 lead. A kill by Taylor and a joint block by Taylor and Taylor Saxen highlighted the rally. Nicollet clawed back to within 24-22, but MCW’s Saxen ended it with a kill.

“We knew (Alyssa Taylor) was a very good player but we single-blocked her the first time we played them and decided to do the same tonight,” Mettler said.

In the pivotal Game 3, Nicollet was leading 19-16 before scoring three straight points on a kill and ace tip by Wenner and an ace block by Erin Radke. MCW came back to close the gap to 23-20, but another ace block by Radke and a Mettler kill gave the Raiders the win.

Nicollet had to rally big time in Game 4 as it fell behind 9-1. The Raiders answered with an 8-2 run and eventually tied the game at 16.

Trailing 21-18, Nicollet closed out the game and the match with a 7-0 surge. Three kills by Wenner and one each by Kasslin Swenson and Radke fueled the match-ending rally.

Wenner finished with a team-high 17 kills. Radke ended up with four blocks, Skrien had 30 digs and Taylor Meurer had 46 set assists.

Nicollet (28-3) takes on GFW for the section title at 6 p.m. Saturday at Gustavus Adolphus College.

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