For the first time in school history, the Caledonia Warriors will send a volleyball team to the Minnesota state tournament after the Warriors knocked off Kasson-Mantorville in the MSHSL Section 1AA championship at the Mayo Civic Center Saturday.
Led by a dominating effort up front from Maria Fruechte and Emma Lange, the Warriors (25-6) dispatched the KoMets (28-3) 25-18, 25-13, 24-26, 25-20 and will play Thursday at the Excel Energy Center in St. Paul where they will take on Maple Lake (19-11) at 7 p.m.
Fruechte recorded 20 kills and Lange had 15 – plus five ace serves – as the Warriors held off a late run by the KoMets, who scored the last three points of the third match to grab a 26-24 win and keep their hopes alive. But Caledonia battled in the fourth match, scoring six straight points after falling behind 4-1 to take a 7-4 lead that they would never give up.
The KoMets again closed the gap near the end of the match, getting as close as 23-20, but Fruechte and Lange ended any K-M hopes with back-to-back kills to send the Warriors to state.
Caledonia coach Scott Koepke said, “This was all about the team on this night. The girls were so connected from point one to the very last championship point. Our bench, Lydia DeMorett, Emily Ranzenberger, Bailey Peterson, Lauren Hendel, Laura Jergenson, Emily Hagerott, Ashley Bichel, McKenzie Denstad, Angie Augedahl, Adrianna Reinhart and Maddy Heaney cheered so loud and supported the girls on the floor so well. That spirit has helped our team since the Cotter match.”
Koepke also noted the teams ability to get through tough situations by depending on each other, saying that losing the third set and then falling behind early in the fourth was a testament to sticking together.
“The girls stayed together so well and cheered and rooted for each other so well. It was a very proud moment for us coaches to see our girls fighting so hard and learning that together you can accomplish anything.”
With Taylor Winjum having another big night setting, Caledonia also took advantage of some great serving with eight aces, five of which were made by Lange.
Winjum recorded 48 assists on the night and Koepke said, “The girls passed very well all night and Taylor had another just, dynamic night setting. Two hands or one she put up ball after ball for the hitters to attack. It was really fun to watch her run the team with confidence.”
Maddy Mullins added eight kills and came up with some big blocks, Koepke said, and the rest of the team all played crucial roles in the win.
“Our serve receive Emma, Maria, Lottie, Alexy Bearbower, and Lauren Rusert did a great job controlling the very tough serves from Kasson. Our ability to have all our girls serve so well and control their serve was really a big key to the match. Another big key was our ability to get into defensive battle with Kasson. They are a very amazing digging team, and we knew we would have to dig a lot of balls to stay with them. All the girls played great defense. Each one of them took turns making great digs. And, if the ball dropped they ran to the circle and went back to work on the next play. Our middles Maria and Emma had big nights attacking. Some of the balls they attacked to the floor were just awesome. With three blocks up they found a way to get it done. The match ended with a big swing from Maria as she rose up and hit the ball around two blockers.”
The win ends a run of five straight seasons where Caledonia has lost in the section finals, four of them to Stewartville and one to Byron in 2009.
“The girls had another great week of practice getting better in two key areas. They are a testament that hard work does pay off. Last, we would like to thank our crowd for their huge support. The place was just hopping – it was crazy. That support really got the girls through tough times and kept them charged up the whole night. We really appreciate all the support. It was quite a night!”
The Warriors will take on the Maple Lake Irish of the Central Minnesota Conference. The Irish defeated Zimmerman 25-19, 15-25, 25-16 and 25-16. The Irish feature three attackers in 5-foot-8 Jenny Puncochar, 5-foot-8 Shelby Rachel and 5-foot-10 Dani Hudek and are the back-to-back defending 5AA section champs.
– Brady Ambrose
State volleyball schedule
Thursday, Nov. 8: 7 p.m. against Maple Lake, Excel Energy Center.
A win Thursday: Friday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m., Excel Energy Center.
A win Friday: Saturday, Nov. 10 at 3 p.m., Excel Energy Center.
*No advance tickets availble in Caledonia as of presstime.