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College Volleyball: Raider ready to make noise at nationals

The Central Lakes College Raiders will compete in the NJCAA Division III National Volleyball Tournament Thursday-Saturday.

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Central Lakes College volleyball players Gabbie Enneking, left, Sarah Bennett, Kaitlyn Hines, Keelie Shafer, Megan Rinicker, Jacey Rydberg ,top, Brooke Wattland, Haley Schleper, top, Ellie Sutton, Jaime Johnson, Grace Peabody and Tori Plemel pose Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, outside the college. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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For the first time in 17 NJCAA Division III National Tournament appearances, the Central Lakes College Raiders don’t know who they are playing.

The Region 13B champion Raiders landed the No. 4 seed and will face the winner of No. 5 SUNY Broome and No. 12 Brookhaven. That match will be noon, Thursday, Nov. 11 at the Rochester Regional Sports Center. CLC will face the winner 6 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.

“It’s not that difficult for two big reasons,” CLC head coach Jane Peterson said. “One is the leadership that we have. They are volleyball knowledgeable people that can make adjustments in a game pretty quickly -- sometimes without my help. They can see things on the court and communicate that well. That’s really helpful.

“The other thing is, this is the first year we’ve had a film exchange. Everyone has posted a film of their last match on Hudl so I can actually see them play a game. That really helps a lot. Otherwise, you’re just looking at numbers on a page. It will be interesting to see if that changes things a lot or not that much, but I do know that makes me feel a lot better knowing a little bit about what is coming.”

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Jane Peterson

SUNY Broome was ranked No. 6 in the final NJCAA polls. Brookhaven, like CLC, was not ranked.

“Brookhaven I would call a good, scrappy defensive team,” Peterson said. “They’re not as offensively powerful as they have been in the past. The other team, while they have a couple of people they rely on to score, they’re not faster or bigger or more powerful than us. They had a limited schedule. I think their record is 13-0, but they’ve dominated the people that they’ve played. I think they’ve only lost a couple of sets all year, but I just know they haven’t played the kind of competition that we have.

“I’m just really confident that our experience will help us out.”

College Volleyball: Raiders roll into national tournament

While the Raiders landed the No. 4 seed, Minnesota State (Fergus Falls), who CLC defeated right before the postseason is the No. 3 seed. Owens is seeded No. 2 and

Rock Valley is No. 1. Rock Valley was ranked No. 1 in the final polls followed by Owens at No. 2. Minnesota State at No. 4. Raritan Valley was ranked No. 7 and is seeded No. 7.

College Volleyball: Peterson notches 700th coaching win with CLC victory

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Butler County Community College out of Pennsylvania was ranked No. 3, but got the No. 6 seed. They will open against No. 11 Rockland. Raritan Valley will face No. 10 Finger Lakes. Rock Valley will open against the winner of No. 8 RCSJ-Cloucester and No. 9 Queensborough, both of which received votes in the final poll.

The bracket can be found here .

“Mostly I’m concerned about us,” Peterson said. “If we play our best that will be enough. Whether it will be enough to beat the best teams, but it will be enough to be competitive with them. If we can just give our best effort, that’s really all I want to happen.

“Everyone is good to go. We’re rested and recovered from ankles and hips and heads. We’re all good.”

College Volleyball: Raiders rally to advance to finals

The Raiders enter the national tournament with a 21-9 overall record. CLC was 11-0 in its division and swept through the region tournament with a 3-1 victory over Vermilion and a 3-0 win over Northland. CLC is currently on a seven-game winning streak. It last lost to the University of Minnesota, Morris junior varsity team Oct. 6.


"Because of our powerful offense, it’s varied and it’s powerful, that gives us chances to earn points. If you can put the ball down you can score points and I feel very confident that our team can score points."

— Jane Peterson


The Raiders possess a balanced and “powerful” offensive attack led by Northern Division Player of the Year Haley Schleper. The second-year player finished with 379 kills or 3.64 per set. She was second on the team with 47 ace serves, 301 digs and 50 blocks.

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Haley Schleper

Freshman Jamie Johnson added 282 kills (3.03 per set to go with 53 ace serves, 196 digs and 22 blocks.

Megan Rinicker followed with 266 digs, 17 ace serves, 128 digs and 47 blocks.

Jacey Rydberg collected 153 kills, 27 ace serves, 68 digs and 27 blocks.

College Volleyball: Schleper named North Division Player of the Year

“I’m mostly coaching my team,” Peterson said. “We’re trying to learn and get better every day. Our hitters have been practicing making smarter shots, not just the powerful ones. We have been practicing communicating to the best of our ability and not have any errors because of lack of communication. We have been practicing some of the things that are what some might say are our defensive weaknesses. We have been practicing that.

“I’m not handing them a whole list of things on what it takes to beat this team or that. We just need to play. Some of us need to have less in our head and just play.”

Freshman setter Grace Peabody has managed the offense all season. She’s recorded 1,037 set assists to go with 32 kills, 40 ace serves, 268 digs and nine blocks.

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Grace Peabody

Sarah Bennett is the team’s libero. She leads the team with 333 digs to go with 24 ace serves. Gabbie Enneking added 246 digs to help CLC tighten up its defense.

Peterson said one issue CLC battled through defensively was handling off-speed attacks like tips and rolls.

College Volleyball: CLC’s Peterson a rarity at any level

“I think we’re really prepared,” Peterson said. “We’ve had the time to prepare all of our options in certain situations.

“Part of it is because of COVID so nobody played last year and there are few people on any of these teams that have been to this tournament before. It’s a brand new experience for most people and it’s exciting. My intuition tells me if you’re not facing a bunch of second-year sophomores who know how to do it and know what it takes or what a championship game looks like then I think we have a chance. Why not? Because of our powerful offense, it’s varied and it’s powerful, that gives us chances to earn points. If you can put the ball down you can score points and I feel very confident that our team can score points. If we can defend well enough then we will have a chance to beat anybody.”

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or jeremy.millsop@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.

NJCAA Division III Nationals

What: 12-team National volleyball tournament

Who: No. 4 seeded Central Lakes College Raiders (21-9)

Opponent: Either No. 5 SUNY Broome or No. 12 Brookhaven

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 11

Where: Rochester Regional Sports Center, Rochester

Semifinals: 5 p.m. Friday, Nov. 12

Championship: 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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