College Volleyball: Versatile Raiders team to beat in Region 13B tourney
Five times this season Paige Wallevand was the all-around player of the week in the Northern Division.
Teammate Kahlen Manthey was the division's defensive player of the week four times.
Central Lakes College teammates Kayla Larson (twice), Morgan Melby, Cassie Smieja and Hannah Peltier also were division players of the week.
In addition, five players led the Raiders offensively in different matches.
All of the above is an indication of the Raiders' versatility. Opposing teams can't focus on stopping one player as the Raiders prepare to host the Region 13B Tournament this weekend.
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Region 13B at Central Lakes College
- North No. 1 CLC vs. North No. 4 Itasca, 6 p.m.
- No. 2 Northland vs. No. 3 Hibbing, 8 p.m.
- CLC/Itasca winner vs. Northland/Hibbing winner, noon
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"The advantage we have is we are a more well-rounded team," CLC coach Jane Peterson said. "People have to defend a lot of us, not just one or two of us.
"We saw this against Mesabi. They were ready for our right-side attack. A lot of volleyball teams don't have a strong right-side attack. Mesabi was definitely prepared for it. We were forced to do something different and we were able to. That's a good sign. Stop us one place and we'll try not to be stopped another place."
CLC, ranked fifth in NJCAA Division III, enters the tournament as a heavy favorite. The Raiders haven't lost to a Northern Division team at home since 2012 when they were upset by Northland in the region final.
The Raiders, who have won their last six matches, have defeated each of the other region tournament teams, all of whom are Northern Division teams, by a combined set score of 18-6 during the regular season. Only Hibbing (twice) and Northland (once) pushed the Raiders to a five-game match. CLC beat Northland 3-2 and 3-0, swept Itasca 3-0 twice and outlasted Hibbing twice by 3-2 scores.
"Hibbing and Northland have some really good outside middle hitters," Peterson said. "They also have some big, strong middle hitters that block well so if we can defend their middle hitters and work around their big block we'll be fine. Against both of those teams, there are times when we will struggle. By looking at the (match) scores you might think it was easy. I think both of them scored a lot of points against us, even if they didn't win a set.
"We will have to play well to beat those teams. We're trying to be more consistent. Really good teams play consistently and we haven't been able to do that. There's still a lot of things this team can get better at. There's plenty to work on."
Wallevand and Smieja lead CLC in kills with 247 and 207, respectively. Wallevand also leads in set assists with 440 followed by Melby's 372. Manthey leads with 62 ace serves and with 356 digs. Larson leads in blocks with 95 and Smieja has 81.
In addition to Smieja and Peltier, Becca Jensen is a right-side hitter who has contributed 117 kills and 40 blocks.
"Becca's a dominating force at the net," Peterson said. "Other teams know who she is. She's an effective blocker. She makes other teams be creative in how they get the ball around her."
CLC, which will be hosting its seventh consecutive region tournament as the Northern Division champion, has won four straight region titles. Peterson said winning the region is part of the Raiders' plan each year.
"It's not something we hope to get to," she said. "This is one of the steps. Other teams aren't going to make it easy for us. We have to remember that. Most people would bet on us and say we're the better team but other teams have good players. They are practicing just like we do. They will try to beat us."