In the end, Mankato East’s momentum couldn’t override Monticello’s moxie.

After losing the first two games and rallying to win the next two, the Cougars were ousted by the Magic on Thursday in an opening round match of the Section 2AAA volleyball tournament at East gym.

No. 10 seed Monticello beat No. 7 seed East 27-25, 25-19, 23-25, 23-25, 15-6.

“We weren’t always firing on all cylinders tonight. We just had a couple of people who weren’t ready to go all the time,” East coach Bob Gospeter said.

“Monticello is a scrappy team. They didn’t hit anything hard; they just kept us off balance.”

Magic co-captain Kristy Niklaus, who said she couldn’t remember the last time Monticello won an opening-round section match, said the road has been kind to the Magic this season.

“We really play better in away games. That’s where we’ve had most of our wins this year,” she said.

In the opening game, East rallied to go ahead 25-24 before the Magic scored the final three points.

Monticello appeared to be on its way to a three-game win after game two, but the Cougars, led by the strong hitting of junior Mallory Zimmermann, forced the match to a fifth game.

“Mallory had a monster game tonight,” Gospeter said. “They couldn’t find her early with her kills, and they really only stopped her three times all night.

“She just kept having her way with them until late in the match.”

In the deciding game, Monticello broke to a 7-1 lead and was never threatened.

“We always say we want to be the first team to get to eight points in those fifth games. It’s so important to get ahead early,” Niklaus said.

Gospeter said some overaggressive play by East took its toll.

“We were trying a little bit too hard at times, going after too many balls out of bounds. But I can’t say enough about these seniors.

“Halfway through the season they turned themselves into a legitimate varsity team.”

Zimmermann led East with 21 kills. Holly Lindstrom had 15 kills and 16 digs, and Nicole Jones had 37 assists.

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