Even though they were swept, the Brainerd Warriors made the Central Lakes Conference—leading Fergus Falls Otters earn their sweep Thursday night at Brainerd High School.
The Warriors led early in the first game, the Otters overcame them but Brainerd kept on the Otters’ tails before falling 25-22.
Brainerd led 12-8 and 16-15 in the second game before Fergus prevailed 25-20.
And, Fergus led most of the final game although the Warriors trailed just 22-19 before losing again, 25-20.
“For me, this game was a big victory,” Warriors coach Jared Diem said. “Some things on our team, our team dynamic that we’ve really been working on, just since the last day really came out in our game tonight. I could tell the girls were working on that dynamic all game long.
“The girls were upbeat, they stayed positive, they worked as a team. We had some errors late in the game that really cost us, a rotation error, a couple service errors, a couple communication errors. Fergus didn’t make a lot of those plays toward the end. They had their mistakes as well.
“They were definitely beatable tonight, but it really came down to mistakes. That was kind of the edge they had on us tonight. We definitely were hitting better, our serve receive was great and we were serving well, but we just had some net fouls. Things like that kind of turned the tide.”
The Otters, undefeated in CLC and Section 8-3A play, featured a tall, athletic front line that made it difficult for the Warriors to hit over or around.
“They have an outstanding setter in Brianna Rasmusson, a tall left-handed girl that can hit and set,” Diem said. “That’s a big X factor on a team, to have a setter who’s so tall and so versatile. We have fantastic setters but what is (Rasmusson), 5-10?
“For us to play them really tight, that gives our girls a lot of momentum for the rest of the games, that we played with the best and we were right along with them. There was no blowout, all the games were close. The little things we made mistakes on are definitely things that we can work on in practice. It’s not like they killed us because we couldn’t block well or we couldn’t serve receive well.”
Brainerd played its second match without sophomore middle hitter Tedi Ramberg, who suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament Sept. 20 at St. Cloud Tech and is out for the season. Diem commended the play of senior Mikaela Chandler and junior Faith Kassulker in Ramberg’s absence against a team that has won eight straight matches.
“Mikaela is usually a right-side blocker,” Diem said. “Her reach is amazing. You can’t hit around those hands that Mikaela has. We put in Faith, who’s a good blocker but she’s just not the size of Mikaela.
“When I think about how we’re missing Tedi, it’s just that change in position. Losing that big right-side block is affecting us. Faith is doing a great job. She’s played left side all season long, now she’s thrown in as a right-side hitter, which is a big change. Just the set coming off (the hands) is different.
“But, obviously, Tedi’s block and presence, and her size in the middle front, is something we miss, but most important it’s Tedi’s character. She’s full of character.”
Fergus Falls 25 25 25
Brainerd 22 20 20
Mikaela Chandler 4 kills, 2 ace serves, 3 blocks, 1 set assist
Madison Brown 9 digs
Jenna Degen 2 kills, 1 ace, 2 digs, 2 blocks, 13 set assists
Madison Stall 5 digs
Hannah Kangas 2 digs, 9 set assists
Heather Fletcher 4 kills, 2 blocks
Courtney Ryan 10 kills, 9 digs, 2 blocks
Taylor Johnshoy 6 digs, 5 kills, 1 block
Paige Rivers 2 aces, 1 dig
Faith Kassulker 1 block
Mike Bialka, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.