Grace Peabody should have been a Libero.
She was up for it. Brainerd Warriors head volleyball coach Rick Kuehlwein contemplated it. Ultimately, COVID-19 and the timing squashed that idea.
But it was Peabody’s defense that made all the difference in the Warrior 3-1 victory over the Sartell Sabres Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Brainerd High School.
Peabody, a senior setter, finished with 10 digs to go with 19 set assists and 13-of-13 serving with one ace.
“Our defense hasn’t really been there the last couple of games and we all knew that we needed to step it up against Sartell because we had already lost to them and we hadn’t beaten them in I don’t know how long,” Peabody said. “We really needed to step up our game, but you can’t wait for someone to step up. You have to be the one to take charge and I guess I played that role for our defense.”
Sartell was without its star hitter Elizabeth Dille. Peabody admitted the game would have been closer, but she still feels her team would have risen to the occasion and secured the Central Lakes Conference victory.
“She’s not the conventional setter that you look for, but she made some saves in the last week, especially against Moorhead and Sartell,” Kuehlwein said. “She made some pancake saves by just diving on the floor getting a hand on it. She went above and beyond. She gave us some extra effort and she kept us in the match.”
In a 3-2 loss to Moorhead two days later at Brainerd High School, Peabody registered nine digs, 21 set assists and 17-of-18 serving.
“Oh my gosh, that one was painful,” Peabody said. “I really don’t think that we were playing our best. We had played so many better games than that one. I don’t know why, but I feel like that one we didn’t really bring it. It wasn’t anybody’s outstanding game. We were all pretty average. They came out harder and better. They just came out on top at the end.”
The bottom fell out on the Warriors Nov. 20, as Brainerd dropped its final game to Monticello 3-1. Peabody recorded 12 set assists and three digs and was 10-of-11 serving.
“There were a lot of emotions with that game knowing that was the end,” Peabody said. “It could have ended on a win and not many seniors have that opportunity, but we just didn’t bring it that day either.
“It was an interesting and different year, to say the least. We were always on our toes with getting updates on the latest news with everything that was happening. We had to conform to all the different rules and regulations that were coming into play every other day it felt like. The uncertainty and not knowing when it would end. It could have been cut off at any single day and so you don’t know if that’s your last time playing. It was definitely interesting.”
On the season Peabody finished with one kill, 62 digs, 193 set assists and seven ace serves on 93.7% serving to help Brainerd to an 8-5 season. She also earned All-State Academic honors with a grade-point average above 4.0.
Kuehlwein called his team’s final week of the season a grind as they faced the No. 4 seeded Sartell, the No. 3 seeded Moorhead and the No. 1 seeded Monticello within four days of each other.
“With Moorhead coming to town on Thursday, we were ready,” he said. “We had a good practice on Wednesday. We had a good game plan and Grace kept us in with several defensive digs against Moorhead. She served well. She played good defense and she did what she could. We didn’t pass extremely well last week. She had to run all over and she did and she got to them.”
Kuehlwein called Peabody athletic despite not being a conventional setter. He said her ability to get to every pass was her key.
“She does some things you can’t teach,” he said. “Her defense was steller last week. She does some of those extra things you don’t normally see in a setter.”
Which was why Kuehlwein thought about moving Peabody to libero this season. Had there been a more defined offseason and had Brainerd had it’s normal two weeks to prepare for the season Peabody might have been wearing a funny colored shirt compared to her teammates.
And she liked the idea.
“I love passing,” Peabody said. “ Honestly, that’s one of the things I’m mad about this season because I love being in the back row. There was slight talk of it. I mean early on Rick would talk to me about how I should have been training at the libero the last three years so I had more practice at it. It’s a difficult position to transition to and learn so I think like that’s why we didn’t make the switch.”
Last season Peabody posted 21 ace serves on 96.2% serving to go with 127 digs and 360 set assists as Brainerd finished 20-9.
She said she enjoyed playing volleyball much more this year, but couldn’t figure out why. Despite all the distractions and adversity, she was a quality leader on a team full of seniors.
“Grace pumps up players with her enthusiasm and competitiveness,” Kuehlwein said. “She is a good leader. She’s a subtle leader and she’ll be missed. She’s a fun kid to have at practice. She’s always in the gym early. She did a great job for us.”
JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 855-5856 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jeremymillsop.
Other notable performances
Karlie Anderson, volleyball, finished with 33 kills, nine blocks and 21 digs in three games last week.
Madi Genz, volleyball, finished with 34 kills, six blocks, five ace serves and 49 digs in three games last week
Kate Stadum, volleyball, finished with 28 kills, four blocks and 40 digs in three games last week.
Career highlight: Beating Moorhead at home during the regular season
Grade-point average: 4.1
Favorite class: Pottery
Favorite food: Potatoes
Favorite movie: “Beauty and the Beast” new version
Favorite TV show: “The Office”
Favorite website or app: TikTok
Favorite restaurant: Rafferty’s in Nisswa
Future plans: Attend Central Lakes College and play volleyball for Jane Peterson
Parents: Tim and Eunice Peabody