The Central Lakes College Raiders volleyball team's magical run through the Minnesota Community College Conference state tournament ended Saturday as the Raiders lost in the semifinal and third-place matches.
CLC faced the Ridgewater Warriors in the semifinals and shot out to a 2-0 lead in the match, winning the first two games 30-26, 30-23. But the Warriors, who will be going to the Region 13B tournament, stormed back to take the final three games 30-24, 30-22, 15-13.
Even with the loss, the Raiders still had a chance to move on to the region if they could get by the Mesabi Lady Norsemen. But lady luck wasn't on their side as CLC fell in three games, 30-20, 30-24, 30-28, ending its season.
"We were in position to win," Raiders coach Jane Peterson said, "even though we weren't expected to be in that position. This team played a different level of volleyball the last two weeks. Most teams would've quit with all of our struggles early on but the players showed a lot of guts and courage to keep wanting it. They believed they could play with the best teams. It's good to end playing your best volleyball."
CLC sophomores Val Diedrich, Jessica Melheim and Toni Elyea, members of last year's national championship team, used their playoff experience and helped guide their young teammates through the state tournament. Diedrich led the team with 27 kills in the two matches while Melheim added 23. Freshmen setter Abby Leach dished out 85 set assists in the two matches.
"The consistency those three sophomores brought was invaluable," Peterson said. "You can't find people with that kind of experience. They will be irreplaceable. But hopefully the freshmen learned some things from them and we'll be able to start next year where we ended."
The Raiders have nine freshmen on this year's team and Peterson should have a strong nucleus of players to make a run at getting back to nationals next year.
"I'll just try to get them to see that they shouldn't be satisfied with coming in fourth in state," Peterson said of her freshmen. "Hopefully, they'll want to stick around and get better."
Raiders statistics (2 matches)
Abby Leach 2 ace serves, 85 set assists, 12 digs, 1 block, 2 kills
Lexie Palo 17 kills, 11 digs, 4 blocks, 1 ace serve
Toni Elyea 18 digs, 1 ace serve
Tracy Bell 4 ace serves, 22 digs
Kandi Ketz 21 kills, 6 ace serves, 34 digs, 3 blocks
Jessica Melheim 23 kills, 6 blocks
Kristin Olson 5 kills, 2 blocks
Amber Schwieters 3 ace serves, 8 digs
Val Diedrich 27 kills, 3 blocks, 14 digs, 1 ace serve
Jenny Skiba 5 kills, 1 dig, 1 ace serve, 1 block
Overall -- CLC finishes 15-13.
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