Ten years ago, the Eden Prairie volleyball team played in a historically tight match with Lakeville North for the state championship. The two teams battled it out for five sets before the Eagles emerged victorious.
On Wednesday, Eden Prairie played a match against Forest Lake in the state quarterfinals that matched the epic nature of the Lakeville North tilt.
After falling behind 2-0 in the match, the Eagles rallied to force a fifth set. After battling beyond the normal 15-point threshold in the deciding set, EP eventually emerged victorious and capped off a comeback for the ages, winning in five sets—24-26, 24-26, 25-22, 25-18, 21-19.
The first two sets did not go the way of the Eagles as the Rangers took a commanding 2-0 lead in the match. However, Forest Lake certainly didn’t command either set as each came down to the final few points of the set. The unseeded Rangers battled with EP point for point.
In the third set, a late push by the Eagles gave them a lead and some breathing room. It was something neither team had much of during Wednesday’s match. EP eventually finished off the set, winning 25-22.
The fourth set was an anomaly compared to the rest of the match. The Eagles jumped out to a 12-1 lead in the set before Forest Lake roared back, getting within a point at times during the set. EP did find a way to get back some of that lead and went on to win the set by seven points.
The two set wins by the Eagles set up an epic fifth set. It wasn’t always looking that way for EP. The Rangers scored the first three points of the set. They went on to lead 14-10 with four chances at match point to send the Eagles home.
However, EP once again did enough to keep its season alive, knotting things up at 14. From there, the two teams traded points. Neither could get to the two-point lead that would end the match.
With the Eagles leading 20-19 in the fifth set, EP finally got its much-needed second consecutive point to clinch the match. With the ball floating right at the net, Eagles hitter Lillian Ekness slammed the ball just inside the Forest Lake side of the court to end things and give EP the win.
Ekness was one of four Eagle hitters with double-figure kills. Senior Kendall Minta, who signed her letter of intent to play college volleyball at Bradley University on Wednesday, led her team with 22 kills while Ekness had 13. Paige O’Connell and Evelyn Skattum each had 10 kills in the win.
Junior setter Cameron Berger was the conductor of the EP offense as she has been all season. She finished the match with 51 assists. Katelyn Jensen and Piper Lange helped lead the Eagle defensive effort as they combined for 51 digs. Emma Matousek was a bright spot in the service department with three aces in the win.
EP has less than 24 hours to recover from that long-winded match before its next biggest matchup of the season. The No. 2 seed Eagles will face third-seeded East Ridge at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 11.
This is the second time these two schools have met this season. They faced off at the Apple Valley Eagle Invite on Sept. 24. Playing a best-of-three match, EP won 2-0. This is the Raptors’ second-ever state tournament trip while the Eagles are looking for their third-ever state final appearance and second-ever state championship.
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