Hanna Cunniff

Libero Hanna Cunniff led Faribault with 49 total digs at the Falcons’ weekend tournament in Apple Valley. (Mike Randleman/Faribault Daily News)

The Faribault volleyball team has annually frequented Apple Valley's Aerie Challenge for the past several years.

This weekend was the first time the Falcons (3-4) won both of their Friday preliminary matches to advance to the championship bracket.

Life got difficult from there as Faribault was swept by a pair of tough opponents, but all in all, head coach JoAnna Lane liked the fight from her team that won an emotional five-set match Thursday against Rochester John Marshall.

"It was nice to see the girls play well on Friday night after they were exhausted," Lane said. "We kind of started slow, but it was nice to see them carry the momentum forward and finish the win. After coming off an emotional high it’s tough to play in that atmosphere. There are not as many fans. Historically, we’ve lost that first match. This is the first time as an assistant or head coach where we've won the first two matches."

The wins came 25-17, 27-25 against host Apple Valley (2-4) and 25-19, 25-27, 15-7 against Mounds View (6-1). MV has won 16 of 20 sets this season.

First on Saturday, Faribault ran into Class AA No. 4 Concordia Academy (6-0) 25-12, 25-21 and AA No. 1 Stewartville (7-1).

The Falcons finished fourth out of 16 teams.

"We looked tired, we looked slow mentally and physically," Lane said of Saturday. "We made a lot of unforced errors. They have good serve receives and kept us out of system."

Faribault (1-0 Big 9) returns to Big 9 Conference play for a pair of 7 p.m. matches in Mankato. Monday it's at Mankato West (4-4, 2-1 Big 9) and Thursday at Mankato East (1-6, 1-1 Big 9).

Faribault cumulative statistics — Kills: Payton Evenstad 37; Bennett Wolff 14; Olivia Bauer 10; Meghan Swanson 8; Izzy Herda 7; Addi Dietsch, Maggie Liechtnam 1 … Assists: Wolff 41; Evenstad 25; Hanna Cunniff 3 … Aces: Evenstad 4; Bauer 3; Cunniff, Payton Ross, Swanson 2 … Blocks: Evenstad 4; Swanson 3; Liechtnam, Herda 1 … Digs: Cunniff 49; Evenstad 26; Ross 24; Bauer 19; Wolff 14; Herda 11; Clara Malecha 8; Swanson 4

Reach Sports Editor Mike Randleman at 507-333-3119 or on Twitter @fdnmike.

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