College Volleyball: Raiders rout Northland to advance
There was speculation on how much gas remained in the tank for the Central Lakes College Raiders as the team battled illness throughout the week and were pushed to a 3-2 semifinal win Friday night.
The top-seeded Raiders dispelled those fears as they dispatched second-seeded Northland 3-0 in the Region 13B championship game Saturday in Brainerd to earn their fifth straight trip to the nationals.
Second-year middle hitter Kayla Larson led CLC with 12 kills on 21 attempts for 57-percent hitting efficiency. She added three blocks.
"We expected them to bring their best game," said Larson. "For both of us, it was all or nothing - we either go on or we don't. We all wanted to give it our best try and we were ready for anything they gave us."
Raiders head coach Jane Peterson said the team was calm.
"Last night we were really wound up, but today we were calmer, but with good energy," Peterson said. "We didn't start off perfectly. We hit a lot of balls out of bounds and because we're those kind of players, we've worked hard at overcoming adversity. We made a lot of mistakes, but didn't let it get us down."
CLC fell behind 11-7 in the first game. With the score tied at 16, it went on a 6-2 run and held on for a 25-22 win with Larson finishing with a kill and a block for the final two points.
The second saw eight lead changes and 12 ties before Hannah Peltier setup game point with one of her six kills. Kahlen Manthey served an ace for another 25-22 win.
Manthey, a second-year defensive specialist, posted a team-high 18 digs and finished with two aces.
"We went and had breakfast this morning and talked about how people weren't feeling 100 percent," said Manthey. "But this was our last time on our home court (for the sophomores) and we had to play extremely focused and put everything we had into a disciplined game."
The Raiders jumped out to a 16-8 lead in Game Three and answered every run Northland tried. Larson's 12th kill of the match sealed the 25-15 win. It also extended CLC's streak of not having lost at home to a North Division team since 2012.
"Honestly, the streak was in the back of my mind last night when we heard about it," said Becca Jensen,a second-year player from Aitkin. "I had a lot of confidence in my team and I knew that whatever had happened before us, that was in the past now, and we were looking forward to the future."
Jensen finished with eight kills and three blocks, while Morgan Melby put up 20 set assists. Paige Wallevand added 14 assists to go with five kills.
The night before Wallevand dominated the stats with 14 kills, 21 set assists, 13 digs, four blocks and two ace serves. Wallevand was named the tournament MVP with Larson and Manthey being named to the all-tournament team. Peterson was named Region 13B Coach of the Year.
"It was really a team effort," said Peterson. "That's what we talked about beforehand. We've been talking about that all year, but especially today. If we are just a better team, we will win."
CLC is 24-8, has won six matches in a row, and advances to the NJCAA Division III National Tournament in Rochester Friday and Saturday against a yet-to-be determined opponent.
Itasca 22 22 15
Central Lakes 25 25 25
Maddy Stall 7 digs
Hannah Peltier 6 kills, two ace serves 1 dig, 3 blocks
Baylee Grenier 1 dig
Cassie Smieja 3 kills, 2 ace serves, 10 digs, 2 blocks
Morgan Melby 20 set assists, 2 ace serves, 1 dig
Kaitlyn Luksik 5 kills, 3 digs, 1 block
Kayla Larson 12 kills, 3 blocks
Paige Wallevand 5 kills, 14 set assists, 1 ace serve, 7 digs
Becca Jensen 8 kills, 3 blocks
Kahlen Manthey 2 ace serves, 18 digs
Overall: CLC 24-8. Next: CLC in NJCAA Division III Volleyball Championship, UCR Regional Sports Center, Rochester, Minn., Friday-Saturday.