St. Cloud Apollo dampened the night for nine Brainerd Warrior seniors.
The Eagles, who were swept Sept. 6 by Brainerd, played one of their best matches of the season Tuesday night as they beat the Warriors 3-1 in Central Lakes Conference play. Apollo secured only its second CLC and just its sixth overall win of the season.
“Our team was not jelling at that time,” Apollo coach Rhonda JuellRjuell said of the previous match against Brainerd, “and they have decided they are going to play as a team, not as individuals, and it’s paid off.”
In the games they lost, it seemed every time the Warriors threatened to tie or go ahead Apollo answered.
Brainerd led early in the first game before losing 25-16. The Warriors battled back to trail 24-23 in Game Two and were serving but committed a service error. Brainerd regrouped to win Game Three 25-19 and led 20-17 and 24-23 in Game Four before Apollo forged ahead to win 26-24.
Courtney Ryan led the Warriors with 11 kills, Mikaela Chandler added eight, Heather Fletcher and Taylor Johnshoy each had seven and Jenna Degen seven. Madison Stall collected 18 digs. Degen collected 16 set assists.
Warriors coach Jared Diem thought his team made errors and hit the ball out of bounds at crucial times.
“It’s that mental focus that you have to have the entire game,” Diem said. “It’s not just yourself, it’s all six players. If four of them or five of them have that mental focus, and one doesn’t, it shows. Tonight, we just weren’t there on every single point. That’s something we need to work on.
“We didn’t close out at the end of games. We had some service errors at the end of games when that ball just has to go in.”
Diem also thought the emotions of senior night played a part in the result.
“It was just a hard-fought game,” he said, “and senior night didn’t help because their emotions were already high. They were thinking about all these things and that plays a part of it. Courtney had an injury to her hand, but Apollo played great defense. It seemed like they dug and dug and dug and dug. That wears you down. We would come back, then have a service error, a net foul or a hit out.
“We just couldn’t get our momentum. We couldn’t keep that mental focus going.”
Seniors honored included Ryan, Mikaela Chandler, Taylor Johnshoy, Courtney Ryan, Abby Portz, foreign exchange students Jess Mueller and Johanna Zessin and student managers Emily Markrof and Katie Holtz.
“Tonight was for the seniors,” Diem said. “We have such a great group of seniors this year, all nine of them. I wish we could have given them a better result. They’re just great kids. They’re such a value to our volleyball program.
“My heart goes out to them tonight. This was their night and I hope they can find some enjoyment out of it.”
Apollo 25 25 19 26
Brainerd 16 23 25 24
Courtney Ryan 11 kills, 1 ace serve, 8 digs, 1.5 blocks
Taylor Johnshoy 7 kills, 8 digs, 2 blocks, 2 set assists
Mikaela Chandler 8 kills, 3.5 blocks
Heather Fletcher 7 kills, 4.5 blocks
Hannah Kangas 2 aces, 8 digs, 12 set assists
Jenna Degen 6 kills, 2 aces, 6 digs, 1 block, 16 set assists
Madison Stall 1 ace, 18 digs
Paige Rivers 1 ace
Faith Kassulker 2 kills, 1 block
MIKE BIALKA, sports editor, may be reached at 855-5861. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bertsballpark.