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Junior Ellie Rutten had her way with the Staples-Motley Cardinals Monday dominating net play in a 3-0 Eagles' sweep. Photos by Robert Williams/FOCUS

6A Volleyball: Eagles head into playoffs on seven-match win streak

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sports Perham, 56573
Perham Minnesota 222 2nd Avenue SE 56573

NEW YORK MILLS — The Eagles volleyball team began their season with a five-match win streak and are heading into the playoffs on an even bigger roll - winners of their last seven.

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The Eagles wrapped up regular season play Monday with an impressive sweep over Staples-Motley. The Cardinals were outmatched against the attacking Eagles who won 3-0 (25-12, 25-15, 25-9). Junior middle hitter Ellie Rutten had a field day at the net while senior Tori Kempenich attacked strongly from the outside.

More points scored by the Cardinals came off Eagle errors rather than winners.

Taylor Plautz

New York Mills (18-5, 6-0) won all six of their Park Region games this season to finish a game ahead of Henning (18-5, 5-1) and clinch the team’s first conference championship since 1989.

The two teams are atop the Section 6A standings with Henning ranked at No. 21 in the QRF - the top team in 6A South. New York Mills, QRF 36, is second in 6A North to perennial power Ada-Borup (19-8, QRF 24).

The Eagles had lost only three sets in their six-game stretch leading to Monday’s regular season finale against Staples-Motley (4-18, QRF 114), including three straight 3-0 sweeps over Pelican Rapids, Sebeka and Pillager.

Pelican Rapids will be Perham’s (24-2, 2A-QRF 5) first round opponent Thursday night. There has been a lot to talk in the region this autumn when it comes to the volleyball season.

The success of the Eagles is garnering a lot of attention around town.

“Our school is buzzing everyday with volleyball thoughts, comments, cheers, questions and such positive thoughts and well wishes,” Head Coach Angie Paavola said. “I love that! Our community can come watch us and see good volleyball and see what is going to happen and they are proud of it. (There) is a buzz in the community, as well. New York Mills needed this. We have a great community and they have watched these girls for many years.”

The Eagles have spread that success for a number of good causes, also. They have fostered the program with youngsters holding their elementary volleyball night the same night as their Park Region Conference clinching victory.

“Imagine 40 little girls all screaming for a T-shirt or a ball from the big girls,” Paavola said.

The Eagles also held their “Pink Out” Breast Cancer Awareness match.

“It brought tears to one of the referee's eyes,” said Paavola. “He commented in the varsity coin toss how touching the speeches were and the teams and the crowd and the whole atmosphere in our gym. He said it was the best Pink Out match he had ever seen.”

During and after the festivities the Eagles continued to do what they have mastered down the stretch: winning.

“I told my girls after all the hype and distractions i have created for you, ‘Now go out and win this conference title,’ and we did it! It was such an intense moment.”

Tori Kempenich

This year of positive advances for the Eagles’ volleyball team is a boon to a core group of young women who have fought through more than their share of difficult times.

New York Mills has not had a volleyball team finish with a winning record since the 17-12 team from 2008-09. The Eagles have made giant steps from a school-low 0-24-2 campaign in 2010-11 to 9-14 in 2011-12 and 11-14 last season.

“You know the many, many struggles we have gone through and how hard these girls have worked and how far they have come and they are showing it this season,” said Paavola. “We have really come together as a team.”

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