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Volleyball: Eagles win to advance to fifth-place game

Juinor Lauren Schumacher of the Eagles tips a ball over the net in game three Friday against Pine River-Backus. John Molene / contributor1 / 4
Elli Wiertsema of the Eagles powers a shot at the Pine River defense in the Class A state volleyball tournament Friday. John Molene / contributor2 / 4
Senior Nadia Nelson of New Life Academy gets down to get under a shot against Pine River-Backus Friday in the Class A state volleyball tournament. John Molene / contributor3 / 4
New Life Academy libero Hannah George digs up a ball in game one. John Molene / contributor4 / 4

New Life Academy rolled to its fifth victory in six post-season games Friday, this time knocking off Pine River-Backus.

The Eagles advanced to the Class A consolation championship in the 2016 girls volleyball state tournament Saturday with a 25-21, 25-20, 22-25, 25-14 win.

And the Eagles did it mostly without the services of one of their best players. Star middle hitter Mackenzie Roettger sat out most of the match with some sore muscles in her lower back.

But the rest of the Eagles took up the slack. Kate Rogers had 18 kills, Elli Wiertsema 17 and Nadia Nelson 16 to pace New Life.

Bethany Breiholz had 48 sets for the Eagles.

"I think what we did well tonight was play together as a team and we were all just one team and not a bunch of individuals and we played with a purpose, to first, play for each other, and not play for the score but to play for God instead," said Breiholz. "And I think it was a really well-put team effort and there was nobody either on the court or off the court who wasn't giving their best effort."

New Life also ran down and bumped up a ton of balls, led by Wiertsema's 25 digs and 23 by Hannah George. In all the Eagles had 100 defensive digs.

The Eagles trailed in each of the first three sets, including 22-19 in the first and 18-16 in the second, but rallied to win games one and two with clutch play in crunch time.

Facing elimination, Pine River-Backus took the third set 25-22.

But New Life dominated the early stages of the fourth, jumping out to leads of 5-1 and 10-2 before the Tigers rallied to get to within 11-10. The Eagles led 17-14, then closed out the match with an 8-0 run. Breiholz had three service aces in the run, while Nelson and Rogers had two kills each.

"It was extremely important to get off to a fast start because without that we get down on ourselves and we needed to have the fire going and just be positive," said Wiertsema.

"Last night I felt we were more nervous and more timid but today we came out with confidence and we were ready to play and we were playing a lot better," Wiertsema added.

New Life Academy (19-14) will play Cook County (23-6) for fifth place Saturday morning.

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