The regular season saw the Raiders post a 25-5 overall record and capture their fourth Northern Division title in five years with a perfect 12-0 division mark.
But those numbers mean little to CLC as the MCCC State Tournament kicks off Friday.
Raiders head coach Jane Peterson said the postseason and the ability to excel this time of year is what the team has work toward all season.
"We're approaching the part of the season that really counts, the part that we all came for," she said. "They (players) are here to be on a championship team. Not on one that won so many games and lost in the end."
CLC has posted a 127-26 record throughout the past four seasons, including its playoff runs. The Raiders, however, have come up short of a national title in all four seasons, finishing third in the nation four consecutive seasons.
Members of the Central Lakes College Raiders volleyball team celebrated Thursday. Pictured are Krista Meyer (left), Heather Kapinos, Heather Feldewerd and Lisa Kurtz. Brainerd Dispatch/ File photo » Purchase reprints of this photo.
This season Peterson intentionally scheduled opponents of higher divisions in the NJCAA as a way of preparing her team for the level of postseason competition.
The Raiders have had no trouble in handling opponents within their division this season, having now won 10 straight while posting a 26-2 record in individual games.
Sophomore Jill Wizik, who leads the team in set assists and aces with 466 and 59, respectively, said the team has the capability to get over the third-place hump this season.
"I think we've all improved as individuals throughout the season. We're definitely more of a team this year," she said. "As a sophomore, I kind of have to step it up a bit. You only have two years. We're sick of third-place finishes. We still have some things to work on, but we're confident for the playoffs."
Lisa Kurtz, a fellow sophomore who leads the team in kills with 239, said the team has played as a unit more efficiently than last year's team, which finished 33-4.
"You take on a bigger role in trying to lead the team in your second year," she said. "I think the biggest difference this year is our improved ability to play as one unit, but we're still working on that."
This year's Raiders squad has little room for injuries or sloppy play from its members as it suits up just nine, down from 15 a year ago.
Aside from Kurtz and Wizik, other standouts on this year's team include sophomore Krista Meyer, who leads the team in digs with 348, and freshman Rachel Voeltz, who leads the team with 100 blocks.
Peterson said all nine members are striving to go far beyond a successful regular season.
"We were talking about being a better team, being a championship-type team, not a team that's just good enough," she said. "Twenty-some wins is not success. It's something we can build on, but we haven't done what we want to do yet."
TY RUSHMEYER, sports writer, may be reached at email@example.com or at 855-5865.
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