Unseeded Stillwater lost its first two sets against third-seeded Rogers but stormed back to win their Class 4A state volleyball quarterfinal in five sets Wednesday at the Xcel Energy Center.
The 21-25, 18-25, 25-20, 27-25, 17-15 victory advanced the Ponies to an 11 a.m. Thursday semifinal matchup against No. 2-seeded New Prague, which defeated Minnetonka in four sets.
Things did not look good for the Ponies right away. With their backs against the wall, the Ponies tightened up their defense and went on to pull off the improbable reverse sweep.
Stillwater coach Sara Baumgard said that even though things might’ve looked bleak, the comeback and upset were not a surprise to her and shouldn’t be to anyone.
“What a comeback, but it’s not a shock at all,” she said. “It may be a shock to the fans, but this is the M.O. of this team. That’s how we got to the section finals, was a reverse sweep. The grit, the perseverance, the mental toughness of this team is hands down the best I’ve coached.”
Stillwater senior Mackenzie Peters said that even after losing the first two sets, the players weren’t rattled.
“We all knew we had this game,” she said. “It didn’t matter the score. We knew we had it, because all of us want it so bad. Everyone on the team, on the bench, on the court. Few subs in, few subs out, they’re always engaged in the game. That’s what makes our team what it is, and that’s how we can always come back from these.”
Stillwater had obstacles to hurdle throughout the season, with Baumgard saying the season has felt like multiple seasons in one. But the players said they have the confidence and the skill to go far in the tournament and are peaking at the perfect time.
“We definitely are underdogs in this situation,” Peters said. “I think, with our record, that’s not what all the other teams have. But our mentality, our skill level, and how far we’ve come this season is what’s brought us here.”
“Surprised, yes, but I also think we all trust each other so much that even at our worst, we knew what our best could be,” senior Alexa Lehman said. “And so us being here — we earned it. We deserve to be up with the top dogs.”