Mikayla Michaletz suffered through the bad.
As have her Aitkin Gobblers volleyball teammates.
During Michaletz’s first two varsity seasons, Aitkin owned a combined 8-33 record with two first-round playoff losses.
Michaletz and the Gobblers have enjoyed success this season (13-7) and have handled it well.
“It’s been an amazing season,” said the senior middle hitter. “Winning wasn’t really a common experience for us the past few years so I think that we are really just trying to remain focused. After every game, we reset our mind-set so we don’t lose focus. Even when we won nine games in a row we went hard every day in practice. Even if we were playing a team that ‘wasn’t good’ we knew, from past experience, that we could have a bad night and they could have their best night and we would end up losing so we tried to stay focused each game.”
After two losses to close out the Ogilvie tournament, Aitkin tore through the Great River Conference and also picked up a win over western rival Crosby-Ironton. The Gobblers’ stretch of nine straight wins included an Oct. 9 victory over Onamia, which the Gobblers lost to earlier in the season.
Michaletz finished with 13 kills, seven blocks, five digs and one ace serve in the 3-1 victory. That win also set up the all-important matchup with Braham Oct. 11. A win and the Gobblers would have been conference champs. Despite 17 kills, 17 digs and three blocks from Michaletz, Aitkin lost 3-2.
“It was 14-14 in the final game and we had serve and it just didn’t happen,” said Steve Michaletz, Aitkin head coach and Mikayla’s father. “It was an end-of-the-season-type game. All this hype was built up and we just lost, but they did a great job.”
The loss didn’t dampen the mood of the Gobblers’ success this season and the improved play of Michaletz.
“Something that I typically struggle with is my focus,” said the three-year varsity player. “I’m a bubbly person by nature, but I focused this year on keeping my focus during the game and concentrating on my serve. I did struggle with consistency the last couple of years, but I worked very hard during open gyms on my serving.”
Michaletz is serving at 92 percent with 32 aces. She’s added 155 kills, 86 digs and 57.5 blocks.
Consistency has been the key for her and the entire Aitkin team.
“Her being consistent as a hitter was big,” said the Aitkin coach. “She’s not happy unless she ends on a good hit. It’s got to be a hard kill. On more than one occasion, I’ve been stuck setting to her during open gym until she gets that perfect hit. She loves to hit volleyballs.
“She’s open to playing some place next season. She’s going to college for academics, but if she gets a chance to continue to play, she’ll take it.”
Whether she plays again or not, Michaletz will not forget her senior season.
“This has been the best year of my life and the best season,” she said. “I feel like this year, which is true about past years, but especially this year, we have bonded so much more as a team. We have built great memories and enjoyed great experiences. Even if we lost, we came together as a team and I love each and everyone of my teammates.”
Other notable performances:
Tennis: Staples-Motley team, advanced to its eighth straight state tournament.
Mikayla Wing, Staples-Motley, advanced to the Class 1A state singles tournament by finishing second in the Section 8-1A tournament.
Volleyball: Caitlin Volkmann, Wadena-Deer Creek, finished with 14 kills, 14 digs and three blocks against Crosby-Ironton and 31 digs, 16 kills and five blocks against Bemidji.
Bridget Bednar, Pierz, finished with 13 digs, 12 kills, four blocks and two set assists against Long Prairie-Grey Eagle.
Marlee Moore, Lake Region, finished with 13 digs, 12 kills, eight blocks and one ace serve against Fourth Baptist.
Brittany Kelley, Pine River-Backus, finished with 17 kills, nine digs and two blocks against Clearbrook-Gonvick.
Abby Palmer, Pequot Lakes, finished with 24 digs, 12 kills, four ace serves and three blocks against Pine River-Backus and added 18 ace serves against Park Rapids.
Journee Howard, Pine River-Backus, finished with 33 set assists, 11 kills and four digs against Pillager.
Jenae Herron, Aitkin, finished with 10 kills, eight digs and two blocks against Onamia. Herron recorded 14 digs, 12 kills, two ace serves and a block against Braham.