Just after the national anthem and before a volleyball game begins, the referee climbs to a platform three steps over the court and above the net. There he or she stands with arms spread wide and palms open to the sky. This is a pose that effectively captures the flamboyance of a Manhattan traffic cop, and the appearance of Guido Sarducci gesturing to a crowd. When it's time for the opening serve, the referee slowly drops one hand, the server flips the ball up, gives it a slap and another Central Lakes College volleyball season and home opener begins.
Wednesday night, the Raiders demonstrated every bit as much flair as the referee, opening their Northern Division season with a three-game sweep of Fergus Falls. The Raiders posted winning scores of 15-6, 15-7 and 15-6. CLC displayed a scrambling, go-for-broke style as they aggressively pursued every return, much to the delight of the partisan spectators. It's a style that Raider coach Jane Peterson also appreciates.
"We're not a team that's going to quit on the ball," said Peterson. "We have the ability to turn anything into a good attack. When we're being aggressive, attacking the ball, then things are going good. "
Things went well all night for the Raiders, although the team seemed to play tight early in the match. With the score 8-5 in favor of CLC and the first game outcome still up in the air, Raider Katie Bell, a freshman setter from Pierz, hit a nifty winner of a drop shot that seemed to loosen up her team. After that, the Raiders grew more animated and rode their attacking defense to a 15-7 win.
"I've said right from the very first day of practice that we will play good defense," said Peterson. "There's not a ball that just lands. Even in games when we aren't the stronger attacking team, we will frustrate our opponents because we won't let balls drop."
The second game of this match began with another Bell drop shot that ignited a 5-0 Raider run. The Fergus Falls squad, led by All-Division, All- Region middle hitter Cathy Selvig, momentarily rediscovered its passing game, which misfired most of the night, and cut the CLC lead to 7-6. The Raiders used defensive tenacity and key kills by Dana Dickenson and Steph McGrane to reestablished control and win the game going away 15-7.
The third game featured the return of Amanda Meyer. Meyer, a hitter and precision server, had spent the first two games on the sidelines, resting her sprained ankle. When she took the court, Meyer's injured right ankle was noticeably taped but had little if any effect on her serve as she went 5-for-5 including one service ace. The team went on to win the third game 15-6 and completed their sweep of the match.
"Amanda isn't moving as fast as she normally would," said Peterson. "But she has a great control of her serve. She can pick a spot and serve to it.
The sweep was appreciated, but not unexpected by the Raiders. "I knew we had the potential to take them in three games," said McGrane who played a year with Fergus Falls before transferring to CLC and sitting out last season with torn shoulder ligaments. "I knew that as long as the team kept working on the court and did lots of chattering, we would make it in three games. The more we chatter the more it brings us together as a team and the more we hustle."
Peterson gave much of the credit for the win to her team's attitude on the court. "We were very loose tonight," said Peterson. We had a very good attitude and it was fun. I was glad to see we could play successfully and dominate a team like that. I thought we played great as a team and I that we passed really well. If you just do those two things, it's fun and you have a lot of chances to attack the ball."
Bell turned in a fine performance for the Raiders, finishing 11 for 12 serving with 4 service aces, 2 kills and 25 set assists. McGrane finished with 8 kills and 4 digs. Freshman Dickinson also performed impressively posting 9 kills, 16 digs and a 12-for-15 from the service line. Becky Poster added 1 blocked shot, 5 digs and 4 kills. Hitter Jessica Hess sat out the game with injuries to her back and shin.
The win gets the Raiders off to a 1-0 start in their Northern Division season. CLC will host Hibbing Friday and will double-up with home games Saturday against Rainy River and Anoka.
Serving- Amanda Meyer 5 of 5, Katie Bell 11 of 12, Becky Poster 10 of 12, Dana Dickinson 12 of 15, Katie Foss 7 of 8, Becca Nagel 3 of 4, Jessi Fischer 4 of 6
Service aces- Katie Bell 4, Becky Poster 3, Becca Nagel 1, Amanda Meyer 1, Dana Dickinson 1
Kills- Dana Dickenson 9, Steph McGrane 8, Marie Kern 5, Becky Poster 4, Katie Bell 2
Set assists- Katie Bell 25
Blocks- Becky Poster 1
Digs- Dana Dickinson 16, Jessi Fischer 7, Becky Poster 5.
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