The goal was to get back to state.
Lydia Hubbard and her Pequot Lakes teammates would not get that chance.
That did not stop the senior from tallying 42 kills, 11 digs, three ace serves and three blocks in the Section 8-2A mini-tournament last week.
“She is a terminator for us,” Pequot Lakes head coach Chris Ganley said. “Most teams have a hard time defending her because she has so many shots. You take away one shot from her and she’s got another one in the bag to throw at you. She’s just determined to find a way to score and that’s great to see in a hitter.”
The Patriots defeated the Little Falls Flyers 3-1 in the semifinals, but fell to the Perham Yellowjackets 3-0 in the finals.
“We were just trying to have fun with this season,” Hubbard said. “It was my last year and I really wanted to improve as much as I could and have as much fun as I could.”
Hubbard became a six-rotation for the Patriots this year and stepped up to the challenge.
“She added a jump serve to our offense,” Ganley said. “She became a very aggressive jump server and also having her on the court is an intimidation factor. When we got her to be able to serve this year, it was a nice addition to her power attack.
“It’s aggressive and it’s powerful. They just saw her smash the ball in the front row to get the ball back, and now she’s going back and is going to serve a good one, too.”
Hubbard added: “If you can have a tough serve and get the other team out of their normal way of running, it helps get them out of their offense.”
Last season, Hubbard tallied 355 kills, 26 digs and 67 blocks as a junior. This season, she finished with a team-leading 167 kills and 24 ace serves. She tallied 23 blocks and 58 digs as well.
“My biggest improvement came in the back row,” Hubbard said. “This was my first year being able to play back row. I think my front-row improvement comes from experience and playing over time.”
Pequot had two setters who eclipsed the 1,000 set assists mark this season in Rita Ganley and Phoebe Glenn. Rita Ganley was the setter most familiar with Hubbard, however.
“The nice thing is when you have a setter-hitter combo that has worked together for three years and even longer, I mean Rita Ganley started setting Lydia when they were 14-years-old,” Ganley said. “It’s fun because Lydia and Rita are together more in the front row and they're all good friends and socialize with one another.”
Hubbard agrees the friendship builds the bond on the court.
“Rita and I are both friends on and off the court and that helps,” Hubbard said. “The connection just kept getting better and better as the years went on.”
It wasn’t just Rita Ganley that Hubbard had a strong relationship with. Kate Bolz-Andolshek was the other big hitter for Pequot Lakes and her and Hubbard would strike fear into opponents.
“It’s just wonderful to have those two girls working together,” Ganley said. “They saw each other as each other’s closest allies and when you hear and see them talk about shots that were open, they were sharing their volleyball knowledge and I loved it. They fed off each other in a positive way.
“I remember the Nevis coach told me: ‘We get rid of one 6-footer out of the front row and then you bring the other 6-footer up to the front row.’ I thought that was cute.”
Hubbard added: “Having two powerful hitters really adds to our offense. It also helps that we always have one in the front row, so we don’t have a weak rotation.”
Hubbard was one of the seniors that Ganley says really uplifted each other and younger players through the weird 2020 season.
“I had more younger parents and younger kids go up to seniors after the final game and say ‘you are such a nice group of seniors.’” Ganley said. “They made a big difference in the whole program by how they approached this season with a positive attitude.”
Next year, Hubbard plans to attend the University of Minnesota and study business. Volleyball is not a part of her future plans as of now.
“I’ll always remember playing with best friends,” Hubbard said. “I love the sport so much and playing with those you are close with just makes it that much more fun.”
Other notable performances:
Volleyball: Tess Jones, Verndale, tallied 36 kills, 29 digs, seven set assists, three ace serves and 11 blocks.
Madison Schmitz, Verndale, tallied 50 set assists, 30 digs, 13 kills, three ace serves and one block.
Juliana Ewald, Pillager, tallied 24 set assists, 12 digs, three kills, two ace serves and one block.
Madison Carsten, Wadena-Deer Creek, tallied 50 kills and 31 digs.
Kerstin Knopik, Little Falls, tallied 38 kills, two ace serves, eight digs and five blocks.
Rita Ganley, Pequot Lakes, tallied 52 set assists.
Kate Bolz-Andolshek, Pequot Lakes, tallied 30 digs, 17 kills and two blocks.
Ally Ehnstrom, Aitkin, tallied 33 set assists.
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.
School: Pequot Lakes
Highlights: She tallied 42 kills, 11 digs, three ace serves and three blocks on the week.