After a one-year hiatus, the Central Lakes College Raiders volleyball team is back in familiar territory.
The Raiders defeated the Rainy River Voyageurs 30-19, 30-32, 30-18, 30-24 to win the Region 13B championship Saturday, earning a spot in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division III tournament Friday and Saturday at Rochester.
It's the fourth time CLC has been to nationals where it hasn't finished worse than second.
The win also marks the fourth time in five matches that CLC has beaten the Voyageurs this season, which if you ask any coach, is no small task.
"Rainy River played much better (Saturday) than the last two times we played them," CLC coach Jane Peterson said. "That's good for us because we really had to earn it. Both their big hitters were better and they should get credit for being as good as they were."
After losing the first game, Rainy River showed it meant business as it shot out to a 23-10 lead in game two.
That's when CLC made one of the biggest near-comebacks in recent memory and changed the momentum of the match.
The Raiders found their serve-receive, which fired up their powerful attack, led by Shannon McCarthy and Lane tenCate's powerful kills.
They found their serve as Jenny Skiba and Tracy Bell attacked holes in the Voyageurs' defense with aces.
Central Lakes College freshman Lane tenCate celebrated the Raiders' win over the Rainy River Voyageurs for the Region 13B championship Saturday. TenCate recorded 27 kills in the match. (Dispatch Photo by Steve Kohls)
But, most of all, CLC found momentum. Even though they would eventually lose the game, the Raiders stole the momentum away from a shell-shocked Rainy River team.
"Momentum is a really huge thing," Voyageurs coach Mel Millerbernd said. "If you can get ahead of Central Lakes I think they get nervous and that was our game plan. We tried to do that but it just didn't go our way."
It was evident on the Raiders' bench in between games that after nearly making an improbably comeback, nothing was stopping CLC from getting the win.
"We had the comeback and that's why we had all that motivation," Raiders hitter Kristin Olson said. "Even though we lost, we were in the huddle, thinking we just made a huge comeback from a bunch of points down. We really wanted it. This team has a love of the game."
CLC also has one of the top hitters in the state, maybe in the nation, in tenCate. The freshman middle hitter dominated the net, collecting team-highs in kills (27), ace serves (4) and blocks (7).
"Lane can get in a zone," Peterson said, "and I don't even know if she knows it. She just plays. Even after a couple of mistakes she just plays. She's so even-keeled and not much rattles her. She's one of the best athletes I've ever coached."
Said tenCate: "Abby (Leach) is a great setter and she was getting the ball to everyone."
That's what also makes the Raiders a dangerous team. Not only do they have a powerhouse in tenCate, Leach has other potent weapons to go to as well. Like McCarthy, who had 11 kills, or Jenny Skiba, who had nine kills. Olson tied tenCate with seven blocks.
After a day of celebrating, Peterson said it will be time to get back to work and prepare for nationals.
But again, the Raiders have history on their side. In the last three years, a team from Minnesota has won the national title -- CLC in 2000 and 2001, and Ridgewater in 2003.
"I feel we have a good chance to win the (national) tournament," Peterson said, "as long as we can get over just being happy that we got there. We've seen a few of the teams that should be there so that little bit of familiarity will be good. (Today) we'll start thinking about how we're going to win it all."
Abby Leach 3 kills, 48 set assists, 2 aces, 7 digs
Jodie Solinger 8 digs
Tracy Bell 3 aces, 8 digs
Shannon McCarthy 11 kills, 6 blocks
Lane tenCate 27 kills, 1 set assist, 4 aces, 10 digs, 7 blocks
Aubrie Anderson 3 kills, 1 dig, 3 blocks
Dana tenCate 4 digs
Kristin Olson 6 kills, 3 digs, 7 blocks
Kelly Holmgren 1 ace, 2 digs
Jenny Skiba 9 kills, 1 set assist, 1 ace, 5 digs, 2 blocks
Overall -- CLC 25-8, RR 24-9. Next match -- CLC in NJCAA Division III tournament at Rochester, Nov. 14-15.
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