October 23, 2003 at 1:26 p.m.
The home town Mustangs were fighting for something as well. Tied with Chisago Lakes and North Branch for second in the conference, Mora, like Chisago, was shooting to stay there.
Mora drew first blood in game one by capitalizing on a lack-luster Wildcat attack, taking game one 25-22. It was not the start DeVries and company were hoping for.
“Katie (Reed) wasn’t setting that well, Kari was getting blocked at the net, just everything was off,” said DeVries. “You could tell that we were the better team, we just were off. After we lost the first game, I really wasn’t worried. I knew we were the better team and we would respond.”
They did, battling back to even the score at one game apiece with a 25-18 win in game two. However, the ‘Cats were once again back into a wall in game three after Mora answered right back with a 25-11 victory. The Wildcats were one loss away from losing the match.
Then, things just clicked. All of a sudden, the serves started hitting, the passing started clicking, and the spikes started falling. Chisago Lakes stormed out to a quick lead in game four, taking the game 25-18, forcing a sudden death game five.
“We didn’t play our best in every game, but the games we won, we played really well,” remarked DeVries.
Highlighting one of the best performances of the season, the ‘Cats left little room for error by dominating the Mustangs in game five, winning 15-5, taking the match three games to two.
“We never had been to five games this season and it was a big break through for us,” mentioned DeVries. “We shut them down right away. We dominated the fifth game, Mora didn’t have a chance. The games we lost weren’t awful games, we just couldn’t put it all together. In the games we won, we did.”
But was it enough. Yes, the Wildcats secured their second place finish in conference with the win, but more importantly, how would it affect the section seedings?
The seedings were do in last Wednesday morning, hours after the Chisago win. As it turns out, the rest of the section was watching as the Wildcats were rewarded by moving from the number three seed to second, setting them up with Princeton in the first round.
“No, I didn’t think we would be seeded second,” smiled DeVries. “I was hoping to be in the top four. This was a big deal for us. Some of the teams in the section realized what we did and moved us up. I told the girls that we were seeded second instead of third and they got really excited.”
There is a lot of that surrounding this team right now, excitement that is. To go along with their 7-2 mark in conference, the win moved the ‘Cats overall record to 19-4, easily one of the best records in the history of the program. And they show no signs of slowing down.
“That was a break through game for us. For us to beat a good team like Mora at the end of the season was big, not to mention coming back from a game down the way we did,” continued DeVries. “To know we had to win and doing it was huge. It was a total team win. The girls are really having fun and playing well.”
Now the goal was to keep it going. Up next, their final matches of the regular season at the Sartell Invite.
Mora 25, Chisago Lakes 22
Chisago Lakes 25, Mora 18
Mora 25, Chisago Lakes 11
Chisago Lakes 25, Mora 18
Chisago Lakes 15, Mora 5
Wildcats take second
Just keep it going, that’s all Nicole DeVries cared about going into last Thursday’s Sartell Invite, the ‘Cats final stretch of regular season matches before sections.
Just keep it going...
Chisago Lakes did that in the first game of the tourney by blowing past Hancock in two games, 25-11, 25-11. It was obvious from the start that Hancock was no match for the Wildcats, and to make matters worse, Chisago Lakes was on top of their game....again.
“Hancock was easy,” commented DeVries. “They really didn’t have much. We played well and never really gave them a chance to get into it.”
In round two, the tables were turned on Chisago. Standing in their way was New London-Spicer, a very good team with a tradition to back them up. No matter, the ‘Cats followed with another two game win.
“New London was very good,we just played really well against them,” said DeVries. “It was a big win for us because we lost to them last year. The girls stepped up and played awesome.”
Next up for the Wildcats was Willmar. Trying to derail the Chisago momentum, Willmar headed into the game with an entirely different game-plan than what the ‘Cats had seen before. It worked. The Cardinals used small ball to catch the ‘Cats off guard, charging back from a one game deficit to take the match in three.
“They were tipping the ball all around us and we just couldn’t adjust in time,” remembered DeVries. “They were a good team with a good game plan. Our girls hadn’t seen a whole lot of that this season and it showed a little bit.”
Despite the 25-23, 23-25, 11-15 loss, Chisago still found a way into the championship. Thanks to a New London-Spicer win over Willmar in three games earlier in the tourney, the Wildcats had the edge in games, locking in a meeting with St. Cloud Cathedral for the title.
As DeVries said it, “Cathedral was the real deal.” The Crusaders edged out the Wildcats in game one with a 25-18 win. Cathedral followed that win up with a 25-22 victory, winning the championship. It was a close match the entire way, in the end, it was the ‘Cats mistakes that proved to be the difference.
“St. Cloud Cathedral was awesome but so were we,” remarked DeVries. “It came down to serves. We missed five in each game and that did it, otherwise, we played excellent. In a big game like that, you can’t miss the serves. However, it showed me that we can play with anybody. They are good but I feel we can beat them.”
That’s just the sign the ‘Cats wanted to see heading into sections, Wednesday versus Princeton. Seeded number two, Chisago Lakes stands as one of the favorites out of section 7AAA.
“I think I got what I was looking for. I’m so glad to have gone to the tournament,” mentioned DeVries. “We saw some great teams. The girls really stepped up and played well against good teams. It shows me that we can play with anybody in the section and maybe even the state.”
In addition to finishing second in the tourney, the Wildcats pushed their final regular season record to 21-6, easily one of the best marks in years.
Chisago Lakes def. Hancock
Chisago Lakes def. N-L-S
Willmar def. Chisago Lakes
25-21, 23-25, 11-15
St. Cloud Cathedral def.