GOODHUE - The players were admittingly tense.
Since 2013, the Goodhue volleyball team saw its season end after just one game in the Section 1A playoffs. After three straight postseason losses, the Wildcats were dead-set on extending their season by another round.
"This is going to sound really bad, but we haven't won a first-round playoff game in my whole career. It's been a while," said Goodhue senior middle hitter Sydney Lodermeier. "We've had a good roll these past couple regular-season games, so we wanted to keep rolling with what we ended with."
After fighting off 11th-seeded LeRoy-Ostrander in a tense first set, sixth-seeded Goodhue cruised the rest of the way for a first-round sweep in the 1A-West playoffs, 25-20, 25-9, 25-13.
"Adrenaline set in in set one," said Wildcats head coach Lindsey Mace. "We were a little too jacked up to win and I don't blame them."
Both teams came out hot in the first set with nine ties and a pair of lead changes. After being tied 18-18, the Wildcats pulled away for good after a kill from freshman Hannah Gadient.
"First one was rough, but it's fine," said Goodhue senior setter Mariah Tipcke said. "We came back. ... We were real excited to play and I think we were shaken up. We fell down but we got our focus back."
For the rest of the first, solid defense kept the ball in play for the Wildcats, putting the pressure on the Cardinals to not make mistakes. Tipcke had a team-best 11 digs, followed by 10 from Torrie Rehder and eight from Katie Pearson.
"We've been on the opposite end of that a lot this year, so we have focused on keeping the ball in play," Mace said. "It doesn't have to be the hardest hit. Keep the ball in play and let the other team make all the mistakes. It worked tonight."
In the second and third, the Wildcats' balance kept LeRoy-Ostrander on its toes. With Tipcke dishing out 31 set assists, Lodermeier had 12 kills and Kate Opsahl and Kennedy Buck both finished with six kills apiece. Goodhue never trailed in the second set.
"All season we've been working on quick sets and we finally got them down at the end of the season," Tipcke said about how the offense found its balance.
And in a shock even to herself, Lodermeier was hot from the service line with seven aces, including three in a row at the tail end of the second set.
"To be honest, I don't really get aces and I'm just an average server," said Lodermeier, who also had four of the team's five blocks on Monday. "I aced a couple and then when they had someone come in I'd serve at them and try to catch them off-guard a little bit. It was a surprise to me."
Mace added, "(Lodermeier) doesn't give herself enough credit, number one. She's a very talented player all around that's hard to take off the court."
Holding a slim 8-7 lead in the third set, Goodhue scored 12 of the next 14 points to seal the Wildcats' first postseason win since beating Rushford-Peterson on Oct. 24, 2013.
With the team playing like it's capable of, the Wildcats are hoping to extend the season when they head to third-seeded Medford on Thursday.
"We've known we could do this all season long and it just hasn't clicked for us yet," Mace said. "The last couple games, we've seen it starting to roll forward. This is a step in the right direction for us. We're only going up from here. It's a good time to peak."
Randolph 3, Southland 1
In a Section 1A-West first-round match, seventh-seeded Randolph regrouped after a second-set loss to No. 10 Southland for a four-set victory on Monday, 25-18, 15-25, 25-10, 28-26.
"We went into this game knowing nothing about Southland so we had to focus on our skills and hope we could make adjustments as needed," said Rockets head coach Marie Jacob. "We had trouble getting hands on their left-handed middle hitter but we were able to dig and make it work."
Solidifying Randolph's efforts in the back row was Meredith Taylor with a team-high 22 digs. Alyssa Whitson was strong everywhere in the rotation with 12 kills, six blocks and 10 digs. Kenna Foss finished with 15 assists and Kayleen Woodcock added seven kills in the Rockets' victory.
On Thursday, Randolph heads to Faribault to face second-seeded and fifth-ranked Bethlehem Academy.