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High School Volleyball: Move to Class 1A may benefit Wolverines

Much has changed this year for the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines, who are making their seventh state tournament appearance. The fourth-seeded Wolverines play the No. 5 Ada-Borup/Norman County West Cougars 1 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals of th...

Wadena-Deer Creek senior outside hitter Ellie Miron goes up for a spike against Pillager earlier this season. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Wadena-Deer Creek senior outside hitter Ellie Miron goes up for a spike against Pillager earlier this season. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Much has changed this year for the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines, who are making their seventh state tournament appearance.

The fourth-seeded Wolverines play the No. 5 Ada-Borup/Norman County West Cougars 1 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state tournament at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

They will be playing in the 1A tournament for the first time after being moved to Section 6-1A from 8-2A this year. Their last appearance in the 2A state tournament was in 2011, the last of four straight trips to state that included a championship in 2010.

"At the beginning of the year, we expected to do well," said W-DC head coach Sue Volkmann. "We were runner-up to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in Section 8-2A last year, with no seniors, so going into this year we were pretty hopeful we would have a good run. We knew we would be one of the favorites this year.

"Then, when we moved into Class A, we were moved into 6A and we knew they had some strong teams there as well. We had our experience and the leadership of our seniors, who have been playing for three or four years now, so we kind of knew that we could be competitive."

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Volkmann added some of her players are playing different positions this year than they did last year.

"Position-wise, we're not the same team we were last year," she said. "The girls are a year older and this has given them a chance to try new things.

"We've kind of developed through the course of the year. We're not as dependent on Casey (Volkmann) to carry the load as we were last year and early on this year. Ellie (Miron) started to develop toward the end of last year and this year Kennedy (Gravelle) has gotten stronger and stepped up as well. That allows us a chance to move the ball around a lot more without everyone focusing on Casey."

Casey Volkmann, a senior outside hitter, still leads the Wolverines in most stats for 2017 with 582 kills, 355 digs, 55 ace serves and 65 blocks. Miron, a 6-0 senior, has 70 blocks and 316 kills while Gravelle, a sophomore, has posted 154 blocks and 169 kills from her middle hitter position.

Junior setter Ashley Adams has tipped 974 set assists to go with 82 blocks, 190 digs, 43 kills and 14 aces. Senior defensive specialist Lila Lohmiller has tallied 297 digs and 39 ace serves.

Junior Kylee Hopp completes the Wolverines' starting lineup. Filling the libero position is sophomore Courtny Warren, who has accumulated 223 digs. Aly Daigneault, Kyla Ness and Katlyn Heaton also see a lot of playing time off the bench.

The Wolverines carry a 25-6 record into the state tournament, with all six of those losses coming in tournament play throughout the season. Five of the six losses were to 2A or larger schools-St. Cloud Cathedral, Hopkins, Minnetonka, Eastview and Osseo.

"We usually try to play strong tournaments," said Sue Volkmann. "It gives you a chance to play good competition and really find your weaknesses and make adjustments. That's what we use those tournaments for."

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The Wolverines' only loss of the season to a 1A school was to Ada-Borup, their first-round opponent Thursday. The Cougars defeated W-DC 25-23, 25-20 at the Moorhead Tournament Oct. 20-21.

That was the first and only time the teams have faced each other, and Sue Volkmann said Kora Kritzberger and Mariah McKeever stand out for the Cougars.

Kritzberger is a 5-11 sophomore middle hitter leading the team with 369 kills and 100 blocks. McKeever is second with 196 kills as a junior outside hitter. Senior Zoe Johnson leads the team in aces with 43. Junior Ivy Johnson picked up her 1,000th career assist on the last kill of the Cougars' win over W-DC.

Ada-Borup enters the tournament with a 21-10 record and a four-game winning streak. The Cougars were seeded fifth in the Section 8-1A tournament and beat both No. 1 seeds plus a No. 2 and No. 4 seed, all on the road, to get to state.

"Our team really came together this year," said Sue Volkmann. "There's some maturity and determination of knowing they wanted the opportunity to go to state and they've stuck to their game plan. Even through some difficult times, they've stayed together, and that's what brought us through."

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