ROCHESTER - There will be no national junior college volleyball championship this year for Central Lakes College. Not like in 2007 when it won the title.
But the Raiders are assured of finishing either third or fourth and Raiders head coach Jane Peterson is more than happy about that.
"Getting to the national tournament wasn't on the rador for us when the season started," she said. "In fact, it wasn't on the radar at mid-season, either."
And if the truth be told, maybe not near the end of the season.
Central Lakes squeezed into the nationals with an 18-10 record. Its 10 losses were the most of any school in the eight-team field.
Even so, a third in the nation is there for the taking today when the Raiders play fellow Minnesota school Ridgewater of Willmar in the third-place match at 1 p.m. at Rochester Community and Technical College.
Central Lakes College's Kaitlyn Roerick (17) and Elora Meisner jumped up to block a shot during NJCAA Division III national volleyball tournament action against Niagara Community College Friday in Rochester. Michele Jokinen
"A third place would be a huge accomplishment for our team," Peterson said. "A huge, huge accomplishment."
Central Lakes met Ridgewater once early in the season in a tournament and lost.
The Raiders, seeded fifth in the tournament, defeated No. 4 Niagra (N.Y.) in three games (25-9, 25-23, 25-19) in Friday's quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals where they lost to No. 1 seed and defending national champion Brookhaven (Tex.) in three games (25-14, 25-15, 25-23).
Central Lakes bolted to a 15-1 lead in the first game against Niagra. At one point, the Raiders went on a 12-0 run with three straight points coming on service aces by Krystie Hamilton.
"It was exactly the way we wanted to start a national tournament," Peterson said. "We talked about that. We wanted to make a statement."
The second game was a different story. Central Lakes trailed 22-17 before outscoring Niagra 8-1 to pull out the win.
"That's more how we played this year, kind of up and down," Peterson said, "but the rally at the end was nice. We didn't panic."
The Raiders went on a 9-0 run to break an 8-8 tie in the third game against Niagra and cruised to the win.
Hamilton had five ace serves and 13 digs for Central Lakes in the match. Elora Meisner had seven blocks and Erica Feldewerd and Jenna Terhaar each had seven kills. The Raiders had eight service aces and only two service errors.
Then came Brookhaven, which is in the national tournament for the seventh straight year.
"They played at a much different pace, a lot faster, than we're used to," Peterson said.
It was all Brookhaven in the first two games. The Lady Bears opened up leads of 16-8 and 20-9 in the first game and they moved to leads of 6-1 and 18-8 in the second game.
"Those two games were nothing to be proud of," Peterson said.
But the coach was proud of the way her team bounced back in the third game. "It was the best we've played all year," she said.
It wasn't until the third game that the Raiders took their first lead of the match. They went up 13-12 and the score stayed close the rest of the way. Central Lakes drew to within 24-23 before Brookhaven pulled out the victory.
The Raiders leaders in that match were Feldewerd with six kills, 10 blocks and 12 digs and Hamilton with 12 digs.
The victory put Brookhaven in today's championship match against Madison (Wis.) Area Technical College, which beat Ridgewater 25-18, 25-20, 25-19 in Friday's other semifinal match.
NJCAA NATIONAL VOLLEYBALL
Brookhaven def. Davidson 25-12, 25-5, 25-15
Central Lakes def. Niagra 25-9, 25-23, 25-19
Ridgewater def. Butler 25-14, 25-16, 25-16
Madison def. Nassau 25-19, 25-22, 25-19
Brookhaven def. Central Lakes 25-14, 25-15, 25-23
Madison def. Ridgewater 25-18, 25-20, 25-19
Niagra def. Davidson 25-21, 17-25, 26-24, 25-14
Butler def. Nassau 25-16, 25-22, 17-25, 25-17
Brookhaven vs. Madison, 2:30 p.m.
Central Lakes vs. Ridgewater, 1 p.m.
Niagra vs. Butler, 10 a.m.
Davidson vs. Nassau, 10 a.m.
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