Minnetonka trailed 24-22 in game two. They trailed 24-17 in game three. They trailed 22-18 in game four.
Each time, point by point, the Skippers climbed back into the match. Each time Minnetonka prevailed, making their first state tournament appearance since 1976 a successful one Nov. 7 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
Game scores were 21-25, 26-24, 28-26, 25-23.
"Yeah, that's the easier way to do it. Instead of building big leads, falling behind. ... I feel like they responded with their backs in the corner. Not every team can do that," Minnetonka coach Karl Katzenberger said.
"I feel like once we start to get down we are motivated to pick it up for the team. We start playing our game. ... It's hard to come back being down, but we have players that know how to bring the intensity and rev it up for the team," Minnetonka senior captain Skyler Germann said.
The moment seemed too bright for the newcomer Skippers early on. Moorhead, making its fifth consecutive state tournament, used a 7-1 run to take game one.
One point away from a 2-0 lead in game two at 24-22, Moorhead was unable to finish. Kali Engeman and Germann evened the match at 24 before an Engeman block and Spud swing out of bounds gave Minnetonka the game.
The late deficit was even greater in game three, a 24-17 hole for the Skippers. One big dig, one big swing to stop the momentum was all Moorhead needed, coach Char Lien said. It never came.
"You have to go out there and give it all you got," said Germann, an all-state honoree along with second-team All-Metro in the Star Tribune and Ms. Volleyball finalist. "You know what you have to do. It's all muscle memory. Going out there and playing aggressively is what you have to do."
Minnetonka reeled off seven straight points to tie the match at 24. Abby Stanwood came up big twice in the stretch, adding a third kill at 26-26.
Engeman's smash down the middle of the Spud defense proved to be the winning point at 28-26. An 11-2 run for the pivotal third game.
"It's definitely one step at a time. If you look to the future, think we have to get six points, it's too much in your head. One point at a time is easier, helps you stay in the moment," Germann said of the rally.
Moorhead regrouped in game four, a 22-18 lead when the Skippers regrouped once again. Blocks from Engeman and Germann and an ace from Engeman got the match even.
Sonia Dahlin's kill at 23-22 felt like the knockout punch, Minnetonka claiming the final two points, the last on a Moorhead error.
Germann led the Skippers with 23 kills followed by Engeman with 15, Abby Stanwood with 12 and Anysia Callie with nine. Olivia Koeppen finished with 57 assists.
Sarah Stolar and Germann were in double figures in digs with 15 and 12 for Minnetonka with Macy Osenga serving two of the team's five aces.
Moorhead leaders were Sam Zimmerman with 15 kills and Jalen Ennen with 14 kills.
Minnetonka, the No. 4 seed, now 26-6 overall, plays undefeated Eagan (30-0) in the semifinals at 9 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 8. Both teams have yet to lose a match in tournaments this season. The Skippers are 18-0.
"This team really holds onto one of our core values; let's treat each other the right way and play the right way and good stuff happens," Katzenberger said. "We want to make sure that we have personal relationship and treat each other the right way, and everything else comes secondary after that. ... Chasing outcomes -- state championship, conference champion, section champion -- that's a byproduct of what we're chasing. We want to be the best team. We want to be there for one another."
WAYZATA 3, ELK RIVER 0
Upset-minded Elk River was within a few points from stealing a game from second-seeded Wayzata.
So, the Trojans went to their bread-and-butter, a pass to Sophie Jesewitz.
Jesewitz got the point in a 25-14, 25-23, 25-12 Class 3A State Quarterfinal win Nov. 7 at the Xcel Energy Center, improving to 29-3 overall.
Wayzata faces unseeded North St. Paul in the semifinals at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 8.
The Trojans converted 44-of-91 swings for points, a hitting percentage of 34.1. Jeseritz and Elizabeth Helmich led Wayzata with 13 and 11 kills.
Wayzata also got three aces from Olivia Johnson and 12 digs from Jeseritz.