College Volleyball: Raiders roll into national tournament

Central Lakes College will head into its 17th NJCAA Division III National Tournament.

Central Lakes College's Megan Rinicker serves the ball against Northland Saturday, Oct. 31, 2021, during the Region 13-B Championship at Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

After Megan Rinicker put the final point on the board for a 3-0 victory for the No. 1 seeded Central Lakes College Raiders in the Region 13-B Championship Saturday, Oct. 30, she celebrated.

Rinicker led the Raiders with 19 kills, one ace serve, 10 digs and one block as CLC claimed its eighth-straight region title, not counting the COVID-19 non-season of 2020 with wins of 25-15, 25-20 and 25-18 over No. 2 seed Northland.

Rinicker didn’t have a smile on her face 10 days ago after injuring her ankle in the match against Minnesota State Community & Technical College Oct. 20.

Her return was made even more important when teammate Jaime Johnson was scratched from the weekend line because of an injury. Raiders head coach Jane Peterson didn’t know till late in the week if Rinicker would play.


“She didn’t jump at all until Thursday so I didn’t know which way that was going to go,” Peterson said. “Knowing what I know about her I knew she would try to play, but I let her know she needed to do that without limping. She is pretty tough and stayed calm about it.”

Rinicker knew the importance of being on the court with her teammates.

“The main thing was a few days of rest which really helped me and my team was really supportive of me taking the break,” she said. “Our trainer did a really good job of helping me recover and I started practicing on Wednesday.”

After surviving an opening-set loss against Vermilion Friday, the Raiders jumped out to a 14-9 lead on Rinicker’s fourth kill of the set. They increased that lead to 22-14 on another kill from Rinicker before winning the set 25-15 as Rinicker knocked out 10 total kills.

Central Lakes College's Haley Schleper hits the ball past Northland Saturday, Oct. 31, 2021, during the Region 13-B Championship at Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“There wasn’t as much power today and it wasn’t as fast-paced,” Peterson said. “The confidence that came when we picked up their first tip and we started to settle in, and their block wasn’t as big as the night before and that gives hitters confidence.”


Rinicker added: “I don’t think we started out the greatest yesterday in the first match and I think that pushed us to get better and I think we came out with more energy.”

The Raiders went on a six-point run to open the second game, but Northland tightened the match at 6-4 before a block from Jacey Rydberg gave CLC a 12-5 lead. Another four-point run made it 18-11 CLC. A Haley Schleper kill finished off the set 25-20 in the Raiders’ favor.

The third set was tight early as the Raiders led 16-15 before a seven-point pushed the lead to 23-15. After the Pioneers answered with three points, Rydberg and Rinicker each knocked out kills to end the match.

The Raiders will make their 17th national appearance Nov. 11-13 in Rochester. Rinicker, Sarah Bennett and Haley Schleper all finished as All-Region players with Schleper gaining MVP honors.

One of the players who didn’t earn all-tournament honors was setter Grace Peabody who finished with two kills, 39 set assists, three ace serves and 18 digs in the final. She finished with 46 set assists, two kills and 13 digs Friday against Vermilion.

“It is definitely different from playing in high school just with the whole atmosphere and having better passers makes my job easier,” Peabody said. “I have improved a whole lot over the last year with help from my team and coaches. It is very different from high school and I like it.”

The Raiders now have a two-week break before nationals.

“We are going to try to heal and be at our best, which is our goal,” Peterson said. “You may play a team that is better than you and that is okay. We are going to try and not freak out and not be afraid and having older people like Brooke (Watland), Sarah (Bennett) and Haley (Schleper) will help that.”


Northland 15 20 18
Central Lakes 25 25 25

Raider statistics
Keelie Shafer 2 ace serves
Haley Schleper 15 kills, 11 digs, 2 blocks
Gabbie Enneking 2 ace serves, 13 digs
Sarah Bennett 2 set assists, 3 ace serves, 17 digs
Grace Peabody 2 kills, 39 set assists, 3 ace serves, 18 digs
Megan Rinicker 19 kills, 1 ace serve, 10 digs, 1 block
Tori Plemel 4 kills, 2 digs
Jacey Rydberg 5 kills, 2 ace serves, 4 digs, 2 blocks
Kaitlyn Hines 1 dig
Brooke Watland 3 kills, 1 block
Overall: CLC 21-9. Next: Central Lakes in NJCAA Divison III National Tournament at Rochester Nov. 11.

Megan Rinicker.jpg
Megan Rinicker

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