Thirty-five was the number Jared Diem was happiest with Tuesday.
It wasn’t the 3-0 final score the Brainerd Warriors won by over the Pequot Lakes Patriots in the season opener for both squads.
Diem, the head coach of the Warriors, was most pleased with his team’s passing, specifically on serve receive. The 35 represented serve receives that made it to the setter, which Brainerd used to beat Pequot 25-21, 25-17, 25-23 at Brainerd High School.
“The little things we work on in practice we did today in the game,” said Diem. “They put the ball deep. They made good decisions. I haven’t had a team like that. They seem to be very smart in what they do. They all have a method and they all think about what they are doing. Our serve receive was the MVP tonight.”
Katy Johnson led Brainerd’s attack with 10 kills and Heather Fletcher added seven. Brainerd was hoping to have Tedi Ramberg back in the middle, but the junior hitter played just one serve before taking herself out of the match.
“Our girls kept their composure,” said Diem. “Our hearts go out to Tedi. We won’t know anything until tomorrow or the day after on her status. We’re being very cautious right now.”
Pequot knows about playing without key players. Kayla Miller and Brittny Bzdok are both out with torn ACLs suffered in the spring and summer. Their absence showed on Pequot’s attack.
“We’ll get it,” Pequot Lakes head coach Kate Dale said. “We have some things to work on, but the biggest thing is we didn’t attack. We weren’t aggressive at the net. We were kind of waiting to see what they were going to throw at us. They did and we just reacted instead of us dictating the pace.”
Morgan Lohmiller led Pequot with five kills, six digs, 15 set assists and three blocks. Vanessa Lane, who returned to the team after running cross country last year, added five blocks, three digs and two kills.
“We’re playing quite a few young kids and we didn’t play real well the first two games,” said Dale. “We finally started playing halfway through the third game. It will take us some time to come together.”
Neither team distanced itself from the other in Game One. Two Fletcher kills and a Paige Rivers ace serve pushed Brainerd to a 17-14 edge, which it maintained to the end.
Johnson came alive in Game Two, collecting four of her 10 kills in the frame. Fletcher rattled off seven straight serves, including two aces, to build a 19-11 edge.
The Warriors created a 17-8 lead in Game Three before Pequot rallied to tie the score 19-19.
A Fletcher kill handed Brainerd to a 24-22 lead and the game ended on a net call against Pequot.
Rivers and Madison Stall led Brainerd with 25 digs. Faith Kassulker added 18 digs and Madison Brown finished with 12.
“We mixed the ball up really well,” said Diem. “Katy Johnson really stepped up and was really pounding the ball out there. So was Faith and Heather. All three of those girls played well and then we had Emily Peabody making great tips and just a very intelligently played game.
“All the girls impressed me with their poise and composure and making the best of every play.”
Pequot Lakes 21 17 23
Brainerd 25 25 25
Katy Johnson 10 kills, 4 digs, 1.5 blocks
Jenna Degen 1 ace serve, 6 digs, 19 set assists
Paige Rivers 2 ace serves, 25 digs
Faith Kassulker 5 kills, 1 ace serve, 18 digs, 1 block
Madison Brown 1 ace serve, 12 digs
Madison Stall 2 ace serves, 25 digs
Emily Peabody 3 kills, 1.5 blocks
Heather Fletcher 7 kills, 2 ace serves, 3 digs
Maddie Franz 1 dig. 0.5 blocks
Kayli Skinner 1 dig
Pequot Lakes statistics
Ashley Abear 10 digs
Justyne Litzau 2 kills, 3 digs, 1 block
Amanda Nies 5 digs
Morgan Lohmiller 5 kills, 6 digs, 1 ace serve3, 11 set assists, 3 blocks
Vanessa Lane 2 kills, 3 digs, 5 blocks
Laura Squires 1 kill, 8 digs
Katie White 1 kill, 6 digs, 16 set assists, 1 block
Barbara Miller 3 kills
Debra Mitchell 1 dig, 1 ace serve