ST. PAUL — The goal of the Belle Plaine volleyball team was to return to the state tournament and improve on last season's fourth-place finish.
With that goal now impossible, coach Cassie Koch said the Tigers need to re-adjust that goal.
"We can still do better," Kocah said after Thursday's 3-2 loss to Fergus Falls. "We went 1-2 last year, and we can still go 2-1 this time. I really proud of the girls and the way they fought til the end.
Fergus Falls outlasted No. 4-seeded Belle Plaine 26-28, 25-19, 25-14, 19-25, 15-9 in the Class AA quarterfinals at Excel Energy Center.
"We're still happy to be at state," senior MaryKay Nasby said. "Crazy, so exciting to be here. It still sucks to lose, but they were a good team and we weren't up for it."
In the opening set, Belle Plaine led 11-6 and 22-17 before Fergus Falls rallied, scoring seven of nine points to draw even at 24. Amara Meyer's kill put Belle Plaine at set point, but Fergus Falls scored two straight to get to set point.
Mariena Hayden made her sixth kill of the set to start the final run, and her next kill ended things at 28-26.
Hayden had two kills as Belle Plaine led 5-4 in the seocnd set, but the Otters took the lead for good at 10-9 on a serving error. The Tigers were able to pull within 16-14.
However, Fergus Falls had six ace attacks in the game-ending 9-3 run to even the match.
As was the case all match, Fergus Falls started quickly, leading 4-2. But then the Otters reeled off a 13-1 run, blocking every offensive attack and slamming every ball at the Belle Plaine defense.
Fergus Falls kept attacking the frustrated Tigers, ending things at 25-14. A late 6-1 run, with a kill and block by Hayden and two kills by Emily Vinkemeier, kept it from being the most lopsided set loss of the season for Belle Plaine.
"The teams we usually play are outside-hitting dominant, and we're not used to seeing two strong middles," Koch said. "It took us some time to adjust, and something that hasn't been the case all season, our hitters struggled."
Belle Plaine found something before the fourth set, scoring the first seven points on five kills, with Meyer making two. Fergus Falls slowly got back into the set with a 6-2 run that included four Belle Plaine attack errors to make it 14-8.
The Otters made another run to get within 23-19, but Devin Lehman and Meyer made consecutive blocks to end the set.
"Cassie just told us that we deserved to be here," Nasby said. "We knew that we still had another set."
Fergus Falls led the entire final set, ending with three straight points to advance to Friday's semifinals against Marshall.
"It seemed like they always had a four-point lead," Nasby said. "They would get the lead and keep driving. They were frustrating to play against, but they were also fun to play against."
Hayden finished with 23 kills, and Meyer made 11 kills. Devin Lehman had 50 assists, and Elizabeth Johnson led the team with 20 digs.
Belle Plaine (25-9) takes on Mora in the consolation semifinals, also at 5 p.m. today at Excel Energy Center.
"We're looking forward to coming back," Nasby said. "We want to show that we're just as good as everybody else. We deserve this."