It wasn’t easy but the Central Lakes College volleyball team will be playing to return to the NJCAA National Tournament after a 3-1 win over No. 4 Northland in the opening round of the Region 13B Tournament Friday, Nov. 1.

The Pioneers defended the Raider outside hitting game well and captured the 25-23 win in Set One.

The Raiders -- led by Maggi Fellerman with 16 kills, three digs and four blocks and Sydney Berg’s 14 kills, 8 digs and 3 blocks -- came back to win the next three games to advance to the championship game. They will face No. 2 Mesabi who defeated No. 3 Itasca 3-1.

Haley Schleper also played a big role in the match with six kills, four ace serves, six digs and six blocks.

Kylie Porter added 10 digs while Hailey Tihlarik helped solidify the serve-receive game after CLC struggled in that area early in the match.

“They (Northland) did a good job of attacking our outside hitters early,” said head coach Jane Peterson. “We set the ball to the outside a lot when we played them last time. Offensively they attacked the middle of the court where we just couldn’t quite get to them. Any team that plays us knows that the middle is where you need to attack us.”

After struggling early in Set Two the Raiders started to make adjustments and took a 7-4 lead. The Pioneers responded to move ahead 10-9 and they led 17-16 before CLC went on a three-point run that was punctuated by a kill by Schleper that gave them a 19-17 lead. The Raiders would go on to win 25-23.

“Northland was definitely more aggressive than I thought they would be,” said Berg. They did a lot of tips in the middle that we didn’t pick up and they were scrappy.

Berg noticed things starting to improve midway through the second game. “Our hitting was more consistent and we actually wanted to get the ball.”

Peterson and assistant coach Ken Miller made some adjustments that ended up paying off.

“As the game went along we changed the defense a little bit with Haley coming up to cover that hole in the middle,” Peterson said. “But I thought Northland did a good job. We weren’t our best at the beginning but we kept fighting.”

The fight continued in Set Three where the Raiders looked to take control. The Pioneers had other plans and behind the hitting of Carly Mekash and Janie Wunderlich moved out to a 9-8 lead. A nine-point run by CLC followed, starting with a Nicole Kortan kill, and the score moved to 17-9 Raiders. A point from Berg finished off the 25-13 win.

Sydney Forbord, a key player from last year’s run in the national tournament, entered the contest in Set Four and tallied four kills and a block to energize the team. A kill from Kortan made it 11-6 and the Raiders built the lead up to 20-8 on a middle hit from Fellerman. The final score was 25-15 and the Raiders had secured their trip to the championship match.

“Sydney is fully capable and I have complete confidence in her,” Peterson said of Forbord’s play in the deciding game. “She doesn’t get up as high so she hasn’t had as many chances. But she is probably the person in there that is best off the net and covering the short ones.”

One area that hurt the Raiders is the service game, where they accumulated 14 errors as a team.

“When you miss in the net that isn’t good,” Peterson said. “It needs to at least go over the net so the other team has to make a decision, but I was proud of how we pulled through it.”

Berg said of the service errors, “It kind of brings us down but I felt like we pushed through it better than we did last year.”

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Northland 25 23 13 15
Central Lakes 23 25 25 25

Raider statistics (kills, set assists, blocks, digs, ace serves)
Sarah Bennett 2 ace serves, 4 digs
Sydney Forbord 4 kills, 2 digs, 1 block
Jade Porter 1 ace serve, 4 digs
Lillee Hardee 6 kills, 1 dig, 2 blocks
Nicole Kortan 9 kills, 1 set assist, 1 ace serve, 6 digs, 1 block
Hailey Tihlarik 4 set assists, 9 digs
Maggi Fellerman 16 kills, 1 set assist, 3 digs, 4 blocks
Kylie Porter 2 kills, 49 set assists, 1 ace serve, 10 digs, 1 block
Lexi Vos 1 kill
Sydney Berg 14 kills, 8 digs, 3 blocks
Haley Schleper 6 kills, 4 ace serves, 6 digs, 6 blocks
Overall: CLC 17-13. Next: CLC vs Mesabi, 12:00 p.m. Saturday.
Semifinal Match
No. 3 Itasca 25 18 24 22
No. 2 Mesabi 21 25 26 25