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Volleyball: Patriots clinch state berth with win over St. Cloud Cathedral

Pequot Lakes vs St. Cloud Cathedral in Section 6-2A Final Saturday, Nov. 5

Pequot Lakes celebrates winning against St. Cloud Cathedral on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, during the Section 6-2A Final at Sauk Rapids.
Pequot Lakes celebrates winning against St. Cloud Cathedral on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, during the Section 6-2A Final at Sauk Rapids.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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SAUK RAPIDS — It wasn’t without drama, but the Pequot Lakes Patriots are headed to state.

With a 25-23 fourth set victory, the No. 2 seeded Patriots punched their ticket to the Class 2A state tournament with a 3-1 victory over No. 4 seed St. Cloud Cathedral Saturday, Nov. 5, at Sauk Rapids-Rice High School.

“We just really wanted it,” junior Ella Kratochvil said. “We just all worked together and we did it. We are really, really excited. We still have a lot of work to do, but we aren’t done yet.”

It looked like it would be a Pequot sweep as the Patriots rolled through the first two sets with 25-16 and 25-19 wins.

In the third set, Pequot found itself ahead 21-15 before Cathedral went on a 10-1 run to force a fourth set.

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The fourth set did not start the Patriots’ way either. The Crusaders built a 17-10 lead and the match looked destined for five sets.

“We knew we had to keep fighting for every single point,” senior Maci Martini said. “We’ve been in a lot of tough, pressure situations, so we knew we would be able to pull it out.”

Kratochvil took over for the Patriots. She finished with a game-high 20 kills and rattled off back-to-back kills to tie the fourth set 20-20.

“There were some open spots in the back middle,” Kratochvil said. “I just knew that I could not be scared to swing and I wasn’t.”

Kratochvil finished with 18 digs and three blocks to go along with her 20 kills.

“She’s got a lot of explosive power,” said Chris Ganley, Pequot Lakes head coach. “So even when the block gets her hands on it sometimes they can’t control. Same with the digging, she has a lot of power.”

Pequot Lakes celebrates winning against St. Cloud Cathedral on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, during the Section 6-2A Final at Sauk Rapids.
Pequot Lakes celebrates winning against St. Cloud Cathedral on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, during the Section 6-2A Final at Sauk Rapids.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Joselyn Rinio slammed home the clinching kill for the Patriots in the fourth set.

“We lost our game there for a while there,” Ganley said. “I think nerves got to us a little bit as it does for a lot of teams. Luckily, we played our game towards the end of the fourth set to get the win.”

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The Patriots offense featured four players with nine kills or more.

Rinio tallied 11 kills and four blocks. Martini registered 10 kills and led Pequot with 26 digs. Grace Hoffard amassed nine kills, three blocks and three digs. And of course Kratochvil slammed her 20 kills.

“(Kratochvil) is so awesome,” Martini said. “She’s such a powerful hitter and finds the spots all the time and we know we can count on her to get a point when we need to.”

Pequot started with a 25-16 win in the first set. Rinio and Martini each finished the set with four kills.

In the second set, the Patriots again took a quick lead and won 25-19. Kratochvil had five kills in the second set.

Pequot Lakes' Joselyn Rinio hits the ball against St. Cloud Cathedral on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, during the Section 6-2A Final at Sauk Rapids.
Pequot Lakes' Joselyn Rinio hits the ball against St. Cloud Cathedral on Saturday, Nov. 5, 2022, during the Section 6-2A Final at Sauk Rapids.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“We wanted the sweep,” Ganley said. “Last year, we had that five-match loss to Sauk Centre. So we wanted to win in three, but St. Cloud Cathedral was too good for that.”

After losing the third set, Martini said there was no pressure in the fourth set.

“I think we just were making silly mistakes that we aren’t used to doing,” she said. “We are used to pressure situations, so we were confident.”

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Setter Abi Martin also played a big role in the win for Pequot with 49 set assists and eight digs.

“We all trust Abi and she’s a great leader,” Kratochvil said. “Her being a setter helps us all out.”

Libero Kelsi Martini recorded 25 digs.

Ganley said the experience gained in the regular season paid off when they faced adversity in the section final.

“Once we tied it up I think the experience helped,” she said. “When we were behind. We were just struggling and sometimes I think the intensity of this match — no matter the competition you play — everyone knows this game is to go to state and it’s every athletic high school girl’s dream to go to state.”

The last time the Patriots went to state was 2019. Most of the girls on the team have state experience in girls basketball as last winter the Patriots got fifth place in the girls basketball state tournament.

“I was getting a little deja vu today,” Maci Martini said.

Ganley added: “No matter what sport these girls are in, they want to go to state.”

The Patriots are the No. 1 seed in the Class 2A State Tournament and will play unseeded Barnesville in the quarterfinals 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Cathedral 16 19 25 23

Pequot Lakes 25 25 22 25

Pequot Lakes statistics

Abi Martin 49 set assists, 8 digs, 1 block, 1 ace serve, 1 kill

Joselyn Rinio 11 kills, 4 blocks, 2 digs

Isabel Larson 4 digs, 2 kills

Brea Eckes 6 digs, 1 ace serve

Grace Hoffard 9 kills, 3 blocks, 3 digs

Maci Martini 10 kills, 26 digs

Ella Kratochvil 20 kills, 18 digs, 3 blocks, 1 ace serve

Kelsi Martini 25 digs, 4 ace serves, 1 set assist

No. 2 Pequot Lakes 3, No. 4 St. Cloud Cathedral 1

Key: Ella Kratochvil’s 20 kills led Pequot Lakes to the state tournament.
Overall: PL 27-4, SCC 21-9.
Next: No. 1 Pequot Lakes vs Barnesville in the Class 2A State Quarterfinals 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10, at Xcel Energy Center.

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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