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The Lady Bucks ran out of steam as No. 5 North Douglas completed its unlikely run to a state title.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - St. Paul sophomore Stella Koch (11) records one of her nine kills during the 2A Volleyball State Championship match against North Douglas on Saturday, Nov. 6. Koch tied for the team lead in both kills and aces for the Lady Bucks.On Saturday night, No. 2 St. Paul was upset in four sets by No. 5 North Douglas in the 2021 OSAA 1A State Championship match. The Warriors won 25-22, 18-25, 25-7, 25-17 to earn the state title, while the Lady Bucks took second place in this year's tournament. 

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - St. Paul's Stella Koch, far left, was named to the All-Tournament team following the 2A State Championship match. Joining Koch, from left, were Damascus Christian's Julia Mitchell and Sierra Hale, as well as Brooklyn Williams and Lailah Ward of North Douglas. Koch also was named Player of the Game for St. Paul on Saturday.After the Nov. 6 match, St. Paul sophomore Stella Koch was honored as both the Player of the Match for the Buckaroos and a unanimous All-Tournament team selection. Rather than focus on her own accolades, however, she turned the spotlight toward her teammates.

"Without my setter — my twin sister (Gracie Koch) — and the passing in the back row, I really couldn't have done it without them," said Koch after the match. "The whole team. I am so proud of them, and I'm proud that we got this far.  

"We did very good," Koch added of her team's performance over the weekend in Redmond. "We fought hard for this." 

Stella Koch and junior middle blocker Annabelle Davidson tied for the team lead in kills with nine apiece, while the Koch twins tied with three service aces each. Gracie Koch has 26 assists for the Buckaroos. 

North Douglas (27-3, 14-0) came out strong and won the first set before the Lady Bucks evened things out with a convincing second-set victory. In the third set, however, the Warriors found another gear. North Douglas closed out its emphatic 25-7 win by scoring the final eight points of the set — and then the Warriors scored the first five in the next set. 

By that point, the Lady Bucks looked exhausted. The team never quit, though, scoring seven of nine points after the final St. Paul timeout. That brought the fourth-set score to 22-16, but just four points later, the celebrations began for North Douglas. 

The Buckaroos came in with relatively tired legs compared to their opponent. Not only did St. Paul (30-5, 14-0) play in the later semifinal match Friday, but they also went five sets against Damascus Christian to earn a place in the championship, whereas North Douglas only need four sets to beat No. 8 Crane. 

"We were very excited," said Koch on how the team felt after Friday's win. "We worked so hard to beat Damascus — they're a very good team." 

It was a quick turnaround for St. Paul, which did its best to prepare for the matchup with North Douglas on a tight schedule. 

"We knew we had to fight," Koch said. "We watched film, we did everything we could. We were just tired coming out of (the semifinal match)." 

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - The St. Paul student section made the long trip to Redmond to support the Lady Bucks in the state title match.Still, the future continues to look bright for the Lady Bucks, despite suffering their first playoff loss in over four years. There was only one senior on this year's roster — setter Ainsley Goughnour, who led the team with 16 digs Saturday — so the St. Paul faithful can expect the team to be hoisting another state title 12 months from now, Stella Koch said.

"Next year," Koch predicted. "Next year."


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