WAYNE, Mich. -- Bedford punched its ticket to return to the Michigan Class A volleyball state semifinals on Tuesday night.
The Mules took control of the quarterfinal match with Livonia Stevenson at the outset and never really let up en route to a 25-22, 27-25, 23-25, 25-21 victory over the Spartans before a lively turnout at Wayne Memorial High.
Plenty of Mules played a part in Bedford outlasting Stevenson in a tightly played match.
However, Emily Williams and Emily Blank led the way for the Mules, who will play Thursday in Battle Creek.
Williams powered the play up front with a game-high 23 kills while Blank added 16 kills and 18 service points.
"It's a great win because we've all wanted to go back to states since last year," said Williams, a 5-foot-11 senior outside hitter. "Last year was a great experience. All of the seniors and everyone who was there have been telling the younger players we have to push and we have to play hard. It's what we've been looking for to get back to Battle Creek."
Amanda Swisher provided a game-high 55 assists while Ellen Hays delivered 55 digs, and Taylor Foster added nine blocks to help Bedford's cause.
Bedford's longtime coach Jodi Manore thought the Mules responded well to the challenge presented by the Spartans.
"They were the toughest team we've probably played this year and we had to work for it," said Manore, who is in her 27th season of coaching.
The Mules took the first game by displaying plenty of resiliency against a Spartans team that refused to go away quietly. Bedford eventually closed out the first game and made it clear it was the team that would know how to finish off games.
The Mules came out looking strong in the second game and appeared on the verge of an easy victory to go up 2-0 in the match. With Blank and Gwozda leading the play at the net, the Mules pulled out to a 20-16 advantage.
However, the Spartans fought back and went on a 5-1 run to tie the score at 21-21 before jumping ahead 23-21 with Kelly Vellucci serving. Katie Tomasic recorded a kill to give Stevenson a 22-21 advantage before the Mules went long on a return to put Stevenson ahead by two points.
Again, Bedford proved it was better at finishing games by coming away with the 27-25 win in game 2.
The Spartans didn't allow the Mules to record a sweep of the match by standing strong and taking the third game. A fast 6-2 start to open the third game helped the Spartans turn the match's momentum in their favor if only momentarily. The Mules gradually cut away at the Spartans' lead and eventually pulled to a tie at 23-23.
However, Stevenson's Mara Murray played big at the net and the Spartans scored the final two points to win the game and stretch the match to a fourth game.
Bedford went in front early in the fourth game before Stevenson climbed back from as many as three points to take a 19-18 lead with a block at the net.
The Mules went on a 4-1 spurt to close out the game and match.
Contact Donald Emmons at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @demmonsblade.
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