Volleyball: Brainerd competed hard, but fell to unbeaten Willmar

Iyana Pickar (left) and Kate Stadum go up for the block against Willmar Thursday, Oct. 29, at Brainerd High School. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Brainerd walked back to the huddle with swagger after tagging Willmar with its second set loss of the season Thursday, Oct. 29.

What followed was the Cardinals dominating Set Three 25-10 and Set Four 25-12 to win the Central Lakes Conference match 3-1 and move their record 7-0.

“They were competing really well,” Warriors head coach Rick Kuehlwein said. “The wheels kind of came off and we just got behind and made too many errors. The second set we pushed hard and we were in the system the whole second set. That helped a lot.”

Willmar capitalized on Brainerd errors to come away with a win.

“I thought we took care of the ball better on our own side,” Willmar head coach Traci Grussing said. “Brainerd did a good job of attacking every ball that came over and we were not ready for that.”


In the first set, the score was tied 14-14 when Willmar went on a 11-3 run to win 25-17.

Most of the points came with libero Abby Stark serving and the set point came on a block from a Madison Genz kill attempt.

Brainerd jumped out to a 6-3 lead in the second set. Abbigayle Bohlen tallied two aces in a row to give Brainerd a 15-11 lead.

Karlie Anderson then spiked a kill to extend the Warriors lead to 17-11 causing a Willmar timeout.

After a Kate Stadum kill, she led the team with seven, the Warriors held a 21-13 lead looking to hand the Cardinals their second dropped set of the season.

Willmar rallied with Callie Slagter serving to make it 21-19 Brainerd, but a Iyana Pickar block gave the Warriors a 25-21 Set Two win to tie the match 1-1.


“We proved we can play with them,” Kuehlwein said. “Especially if we are in system.”

Bohlen tallied 14 set assists, five kills and three ace serves for the Warriors, including serving for a 7-0 run in the second set.

What worried Kuehlwein was it seemed his team was happy to win the one set.

“We just were not up to the whole task,” he said. “We were up for one set and they were happy to get it, but you need a complete match to beat a team like Willmar.”

In the third set, Willmar jumped out to a 15-3 lead and forced Brainerd to use both its timeouts early. After Willmar blocked a Stadum kill attempt, it came away with a 25-10 win in Set Three.

“Our offense started slowing down a bit mainly because we were not passing well,” Kuehlwein said. “We have that expression ‘pass or fail’ and that’s what happened. We failed. We just had too many hitting errors and the girls worked hard, but we couldn’t finish. Give Willmar credit, they did a really good job and didn’t let up.”

The fourth set seemed to be a repeat of the third. Willmar secured a 13-3 lead and a Brainerd error was the match winning point for the Cardinals in their 25-12 Set Four win.

“I think that the adjustments that we made and Brainerd running a lot of twos was good for us to see,” Grussings said. “It was good to have to adjust to that.”


Anderson recorded six kills and three blocks and Grace Peabody tallied nine set assists and three digs for Brainerd.

“We win as a team and we lose as a team,” Kuehlwein said. “Karlie blocked real well and that was good and I thought Meghan Smith played some pretty good defense. As good as some of those kids were they made some mistakes, too.”

Willmar 25 21 25 25
Brainerd 17 25 10 12

Brainerd statistics
Kate Stadum 7 kills, 7 digs
Hillary Hoelz 1 kill
Grace Peabody 9 set assists, 3 digs
Makenna O’Neal 1 dig
Madison Genz 2 kills, 5 digs
Abbigayle Bohlen 3 ace serves, 14 set assists, 5 kills
Hala Davis 3 kills, 2 blocks
Meghan Smith 1 kill, 4 digs
Iyana Pickar 4 kills, 1 block
Karlie Anderson 6 kills, 3 blocks

Willmar 3, Warriors 1

Key: Willmar’s power hitters proved to be too much for the Warriors.

Conference: Brd 3-2, Wil 5-0.


Overall: Brd 3-2, Wil 7-0.

Next: Brainerd at Bemidji 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 2.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

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