The #5 Class A ranked Faribault Bethlehem Academy Cardinals are back at state following their 3-1 win over the #7 rated Caledonia.

Bethlehem Academy won the first set 28-26, a loss to the defending Section Champs and State runner-up 29-27, and wins of 25-19 and 25-23.

Before Bethany Boelter sat down beside me to assist with our broadcast of the Section 1A title match between Bethlehem Academy and Caledonia I told her something I will share with you.

"Your Dad has done his best coaching this season."

Bethany had not even seen the team play until Saturday due to her incredible work schedule.  I thought I put in a lot of hours but she a very busy young woman.

Her work at Jostens takes her all over the country.

I purposefully schedule the toughest opponents for BA when making out the volleyball broadcast schedule so I've seen them (outside of tournaments and the Marshall match) against some pretty good teams (Mayer Lutheran, Kenyon-Wanamingo, Kasson-Mantorville, Stewartville).

The only win in that bunch came against K-W and they are also heading to state.

At times in those matches (except maybe against Mayer Lutheran) the Cardinals had stretches of very good volleyball.  But in the same match they also had stretches of play where they would give away points.  Either multiple service errors and hitting or blocking errors, you name it.

With 10 days left before playoffs Coach Franz Boelter did something I don't believe he has ever done during this incredible stretch of State Tournament volleyball teams at BA.

He changed the team's rotation. One of the changes is to keep Mary Campbell on the floor at all times.  It has made a difference.

Campbell had 20 kills and just one hitting error according to my unofficial statistical work.

Campbell is going to Bemidji State to play volleyball and is being asked to lead what is really a young team for the Cardinals.

Bethlehem Academy's setter, Abby Jandro, is an 8th grader and so is hitter Ellie Cohen.

Cohen played awesome in the 3-1 section final match Saturday in Rochester.

My unofficial statistics had her with 11 kills and the first 10 came without an error.

Cohen took over the third set when the match was even at a set apiece, tallying 6 of her kills with no errors.

That kind of efficiency in volleyball is priceless.

As I told Bethany during the broadcast Cohen grew up right before our eyes.  It was the first time she saw Ellie in action and she was impressed by her calm demeanor.

She is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

It was her best performance of the season on the big stage and it was pretty cool to see her smile with her teammates.

It's not always easy for seniors to accept 8th graders on a high school team.

So Coach Boelter's challenge hasn't just been to come up with a rotation that works.

The team has to buy into that rotation too.

Judging by the results in the subsection and section tournament I'd say they have.

Sophomore Laney Donahue has all the physical tools to be a volleyball star.  My stats had her with 10 kills Saturday and she had (in my opinion) the two biggest kills of the fourth set.

The Cardinals were up 17-10 and suddenly found themselves down 23-22.  Donahue would collect two of the next three points in the win.

Bethany chose our State Farm players of the match Saturday.  Campbell, Cohen, Laney Donahue and Olivia Nass.

The Cardinals are the #3 seed and play Pine River-Backus (24-6) in their opening match Thursday at 3:00 p.m. on the same court Kenyon-Wanamingo plays at 5:00 pm.

Section 1A Champion Bethlehem Academy. Photo by Gordy Kosfeld