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College Volleyball: Raiders in rare playoff position

Central Lakes will open Region 13A playoffs against No. 1 seed Century.

Volleyball players hit the ball at the net.
Central Lakes College's Morgan Majerus hits the ball past Mesabi Sept. 7, 2022, at Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — It’s been a strange season for the Central Lakes College Raiders and the strangeness will continue.

That’s because the Raiders won’t be hosting the Region 13B Tournament. Instead, CLC (15-13) is the No. 4 seed in the Region 13A Tournament and will open against No. 1 seeded and No. 7 ranked Century (21-5) 6 p.m. Friday in White Bear Lake.

“That’s different this year in that there are two north and two south teams in each of the regions,” Peterson said. “Previously, there were four north teams in one region and four south teams in the other region.”

It’s a rematch of an Oct. 8 matchup in which Century defeated CLC 3-0 by scores of 25-19, 25-17 and 25-13. The loss was the Raiders’ third in four matches and marked a low in CLC’s season along with finding out it would have to forfeit wins because of a clerical error. That’ clerical error is why CLC is not hosting the Region 13B Tournament.

“We have played in their gym and we have seen them,” CLC head coach Jane Peterson said. “It’s no secret that this team has faced a lot of adversity. We played Century after losing the night before to St. Cloud Tech after losing the Wednesday to Mesabi, without our full lineup. We were playing Century without everybody. We know that we haven’t played them with our best team on the floor. We know they have lost this year. They’re not unbeatable. I think we’re in a much better place than we were when we played them. Everyone is available and together. All this adversity has really helped us come together and be team-oriented players. We are determined in a way that I hope is unbeatable.”

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After the loss to Century, the Raiders were in must-win situations for the remainder of the season. That’s exactly what they did. They swept Itasca, who is the No. 3 seed in the Region 13A Tournament. They defeated Vermilion 3-1 and then swept Fond du Lac 3-0 before eliminating Alexandria in a winner-take-all match 3-0 to end the regular season.

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CLC’s final week and a half was proof enough for the NJCAA Divison III pollsters to jump the Raiders up from 8th in the national rankings to No. 5, head of Century, No. 2 seed Rochester, who is ranked 9. And Minnesota State (Fergus Falls) which is ranked No. 8 and the No. 3 seed in the Region 13B Tournament.

“Last Wednesday was a big relief for me because we did it together,” Peterson said. “It was a team performing well despite all the things around them. This team did this rather calmly. I think they believe in themselves. They believed they could win those games. They performed like a great team would. They just said, ‘OK, that was in our way. What we can do now is try to win and try to be there for each other.’ They’ve done a good job of not worrying about things that aren’t going right. We’ve done a good job of recovering from mistakes quickly. Since the Century game, we haven’t had long stretches of not playing well.”

Century’s Emma Crandell was the main offensive output with 16 kills the last time these two teams faced. Mackay Williams, Klyomi Callahan, Gabrielle Schwirtz and Crandell all finished with double figures in digs and Kalley Vugteveen posted five ace serves.

“They are a well-rounded team,” Peterson said. “They have multiple good players who are good at a lot of different things. There isn’t one thing or one person we’ll have to defend. They’re a good volleyball team. I think they serve tough, too.”

Megan Rinicker finished with 11 kills in the match, but CLC only collected 29 digs and finished with just one ace serve compared to eight service errors.

Jenna Pelnis, CLC’s standout defensive specialist did not play in the Century game. She did play against Alexandria and finished with 19 digs and two ace serves. Having her back and healthy along with everyone else could give the Raiders enough ammunition to turn the tide.

“Coaches all over will say you have to win the serve-pass game and we did not win the serve-pass game last time,” Peterson said. “We didn’t have our best passers on the court. Our serve-pass game will be better and hopefully, that will make everything else better. When you don’t pass well you just don’t feel good. You don't get it to the hitter you want to get it too. You don’t get the type of swings you want on the ball.

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“I think if we can win the serve-pass game and play good defense then I think we can win.”

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

Region 13A Playoffs

Who: Central Lakes College vs. Century

When: 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28

Where: Century College, White Bear Lake

Other: Itasca vs. Rochester

Championship: Noon, Saturday, Oct. 29

Related Topics: LOCAL SPORTSCENTRAL LAKES COLLEGECOLLEGE VOLLEYBALL
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