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Published: Saturday, 3/12/2005

Bedford a step closer to another state crown

Bedford s Lexi Leonhard spikes the ball against two L Anse Creuse players for one of her 14 kills.
Bedford s Lexi Leonhard spikes the ball against two L Anse Creuse players for one of her 14 kills.

KALAMAZOO - Bedford, making its 16th straight trip to Michigan's final four, took another step toward another state volleyball title last night.

The Mules (71-6) defeated Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse 25-19, 25-17, 24-26, 25-18 in a Class A semifinal at University Arena. The Mules must get past Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (71-3) here today at 4 p.m. to claim the program's third state championship in the last eight years.

Last night's victory, before 2,212 spectators, marked the first time in the past five years that Bedford has advanced out of the semis and into the title game. Juniors Tara Breske and Veronica Rood did all they could to prevent another early departure.

"We've lost in the semis the last two years and have not come out of here happy, and we're not going to let that happen again," said Breske, who had a team-high 19 kills and 25 digs. "This is what it's all been about. I'm just so excited to be able to go out there and play for a state championship. It's something you will remember forever. When you have grandkids you can point to the banner and say that was the year that I did that."

Rood, who had 13 kills and 14 digs, said she traveled here in 1998 and 2001 and watched Bedford win its only state titles.

Bedford senior Kali Kuhl celebrates a point in
the fourth game of the Mules  semifinal victory.
Bedford senior Kali Kuhl celebrates a point in the fourth game of the Mules semifinal victory.

"I thought it would be so awesome if one day I could be out there playing for a state championship," she said. "It's always been my dream."

Bedford was just four points from making it a clean, three-game sweep over L'Anse Creuse (52-5-1). The Mules were up 21-17 in game three, but saw the Lancers rally for a 26-24 victory.

"I thought we got caught looking ahead a little bit," said Bedford coach Jodi Manore, who has led the Mules to two state titles and four second-place finishes in her 20 years at the helm.

"I think we thought we had this game in our hands and we started making mistakes," Rood said.

Bedford never trailed in the first game, but the Lancers tied it at 19 with a 6-1 run. Manore quickly called a timeout. Her Mules responded with six unanswered points to win it 25-19. All six points were scored with junior Emily Fahrer serving, and the final three points came via the arm of Lexi Leon-

hard, who posted 14 kills.

"I thought Lexi Leonhard played outstanding," Manore said. "It was her best match of the year."

The Mules continued to feed off that momentum and rattled off five straight points to start the second game. Bedford then went up 8-2 on Kali Kuhl's ace. Breske and Hood then provided some nice, hard kills as Bedford went on runs of 4-0 and 4-2 and wrapped up the second game on Stephanie Champine's kill for a 25-17 win.

L'Anse Creuse took its very first lead of the entire match at 3-2 lead in the third game, then rallied for the 26-24 decision.

The Lancers then scored the first point of game No. 4 but would never be in front again as Bedford posted a 10-1 spurt midway through the game. Breske finished the match with an ace.

Breske, a second-team all state selection last year, had torn her ACL and has only been back in the lineup for a month after sitting out for a month.

Manore singled out Fahrer, who had 51 sets, for spreading the ball around.

Bedford, which finished second in 1991, 1992, 1996 and 1999, has not faced Grand Rapids Forest Hills this season.

"It's great to get to state but then getting to that final game and it's on TV and it's for everything - that's just another huge step," Manore said. "We really want to win."

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6110.

In Class C, Blissfield (46-6-4) squares off against Ravenna (38-24) in the finals this afternoon at 2 p.m. The Royals defeated Suttons Bay in three straight games in the semifinals on Thursday.

Contact Mark Monroe at: mmonroe@theblade.com

or 419-724-6110.

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