By BURT ANGELI
FELCH - North Dickinson nearly derailed Stephenson in the Class D District 126 volleyball tournament Monday at Carl F. Lemin Gymnasium.
Burt Angeli/The Daily News Photo
North Dickinson’s Chelsey Stroud bumps a serve while Winter Steinbrecher and Coach Sandy Haustein look on in Monday’s Class D District 126 match at Carl F. Lemin Gymnasium. The Eagles turned back the Nordics 3-1 (25-12, 25-17, 23-25, 25-22).
The Eagles breezed through the first two sets but struggled from there in surviving for a 3-1 (25-12, 25-17, 23-25, 25-22) decision.
"In the first two games we were flowing and very smooth," Stephenson Coach Sara Johnson said. "I was getting the passes which leads to solid hitting. You did not see that in the third and fourth games. That was hurting us."
Eagles senior Lexi Johnson, who drilled a team-high 25 kills, stood out in the first two sets. A Johnson kill wrapped up the first set while the senior continued to make big plays including an ace serve in the second set.
"Those first two games we were really strong," coach Johnson noted.
Coach Sandy Haustein's Nordics roared to life in the third set behind front row hitters Lexi Steele and Kimberly Cary, overall play of Chelsey Stroud and setting of Gina Rotter.
"North Dickinson was hitting much harder in the third game," Johnson said. "I thought we played pretty even in the fourth game."
In the third set, Stephenson held a 19-17 lead until a double-block from Stroud and Maria Roell keyed a rally. The Nordics knotted the match at 22 after a Cary kill, and two more Steele kills decided the set.
North Dickinson owned a 22-20 advantage in the fourth set. However, two errors evened the score and Lexi Johnson followed with three straight kills including a double-block with Karlina Johnson to end the match.
The Eagles coach was perplexed by her team's late-match stumble. Nervous? Lazy? Concerned with Class D power Forest Park watching from the stands?
"Everybody seemed to tighten up with the pressure that this is it," said Johnson, who guided Stephenson to a share of the Great Northern Conference title. "We've been in some tough matches this year. I thought we would keep flowing through.
Stephenson's Ally DuPrey added nine kills; Kelsey Johnson had 32 digs, and Lexi Rasner produced 19 assists.
North Dickinson, runner-up in the Skyline Conference, played without front row standout Miranda Jacobson (ankle). The junior is expected back some time during the basketball season.
Stephenson (26-6-1) hosts Bark River-Harris at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the district semifinal.