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Cardinals lose to Parkview
Photo for the Times: Christopher Heimerman Brodhead senior Dana Lewis watches her spike kill before it rides the net to a Cardinals Game 1 win Thursday night against Orfordville Parkview.
BRODHEAD - The pain in Amanda Johnson's knees was trumped only by the ache of her heart after Brodhead's 23-25, 28-30, 25-22, 25-18, 15-9, loss to Orfordville Parkview, Thursday night.

The Cardinals (4-5 Rock Valley South) won a pair of nail-biters, only to lose a hotly contested Game 3 before watching the Vikings (7-2) pull away in the next two to earn a rare sweep of their Rock Valley South rival.

Johnson had a key dig that helped seal Game 2 and seemingly spent as much time on the hardwood as she did on her feet throughout the gritty battle.

"My knees are pretty shot," Johnson said. "I just go in reaction. In practice, you can try to do it, but it's different in games."

Brodhead led Game 3, 20-18, but couldn't hold on.

"You gotta play to win all the time, not play to not get beat," Ebensperger said.

Mariah Mohns had back-to-back kills early in the fourth game, the first a one-on-one block of Abby Smith and the second a spike kill down the left side. But when the Cardinals enjoyed an 8-7 lead a few points later, it would be their last of the night. Koch served four straight points, two of them aces, to give the Vikes a 23-16 lead. When a Mohns block went out of bounds to end the game, the momentum needle was buried toward Parkview's side of the net.

Johnson had her best dig of the night at the outset of a lengthy point capped by a tip kill by Parkview's Kaitlin Nyman. Johnson laid out several feet past the right boundary and somehow popped a dig that sent the ball nearly scraping the gym's rafters.

Brodhead hung close, but it was evident it was the Vikings' night when Nyman's match-ending serve drew plenty of the right side of the net before somehow flopping over.

The Cardinals' win in Game 1 was equally unlikely. Dana Lewis, off an assist by freshman Amanda Pickel, sent a left-handed, low-angle spike from the left side and watched it ride the net before dropping barely in bounds.

While Brodhead won Game 2, they won it in inauspicious fashion, having led 21-16 before being forced to play extra volleyball. Johnson triggered the winning point with a dig as she dove away from the net. Later in the point, Megan Heller dove past the right boundary to pop up an equally eye-popping dig. Ultimately, Johnson capped the point with a crafty tip kill.

"Amanda Johnson and Megan Heller, they just play out of their heads defensively," Ebensperger said. "They're some of the best defensive players that have ever come through Brodhead."

Johnson had nine digs, while Lewis led the Cards in kills (12) and Heller (20) and Amanda Pickel (15) led the team in assists. Lewis and Mohns both had four blocks.

Ebensperger admitted he was worried entering the match, since it would be his team's second near-two-hour match in three days. While both teams were visibly gassed during Game 5, Johnson refused to believe her team shouldn't have found a way to pull out the match.

"We got pretty tired, but we came up just short," Johnson said. "We all would've liked to have done something different."

After last year's state run, the Cardinals' pieces this year still are finding their place.

"I've got senior girls playing positions they haven't played and freshmen just playing ... It's just a different animal," Ebensperger said. "But if you don't get too down, you can keep building. Being in games like these gives you a lot of experience."