November 12, 2021 at 12:17 p.m.
“It’s such a surreal feeling honestly,” Head Coach Hannah Lindstrom said after the match. “I just kept feeling appreciation that our athletes finally got validation for their hard work and commitment. We’ve been working towards this for a long time and they finally have something like this to show for it.”
As the top seed, the Wildcats hosted Mahtomedi, the second seed, for the championship match. And the home crowd was full and raucous for the ‘Cats.
It looked like CL was going to give them something to cheer about early, as they jumped out to an 18-13 lead in the first set and were in total control. But, Mahtomedi strung together five straight points to even the match up. At 20-20, Lauryn Friedner nailed a big spike to give CL a 21-20 lead, and the ‘Cats stayed up by just one point to 25-24. Chisago Lakes looked like they got the winning point by painting the back line while up by one, but the referee ruled the ball was out and play proceeded with the match at 25-25. The Zephyrs took advantage and won the next two points to snatch the set away from CL 27-25.
It was a demoralizing set loss for the team and the crowd as CL was fully in charge for most of the set.
“We have to break everything down to mini games of five points. It helps take the matches down to single plays and points and it gives us a chance to recover from errors,” Lindstrom explained.
After a positive regrouping around Lindstrom, the Wildcats answered in the best way possible. They raced out to an early lead in the second set, and this time they kept the pressure on Mahtomedi and didn’t allow them to get near a comeback at any point. With some strong net play by Ashley Peliter, Kalley Vugteveen and Abby Zins, the ‘Cats pounded the Zephyrs 25-15 in the second set.
The third set ended up being the biggest key in the match. It was a tight affair all the way through, but Mahtomedi kept a slight lead most of the way. Near the end, they rattled off two straight points to go up 24-20 and put Chisago Lakes on the brink of being down 2-1. But, Chisago Lakes won the next point to get to 24-21 and with Peltier serving, they ran off four more huge points to go up 25-24 and, fending off four set points along the way.
Mahtomedi eventually broke the run with a point to tie it at 25-25. On the next point, Mahtomedi looked like they seized the advantage, with the ball falling on the Wildcats side, but the referee called a double touch violation on Mahtomedi’s side, awarding the point to Chisago Lakes in a massive ruling. CL won the next point to complete the epic comeback and take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Mahtomedi bounced back to win the fourth set 25-18 in one they held the lead all the way through, and that set up the winner-take-all race to 15 for a state tournament berth.
Much of the drama was quickly taken out of the game and the excitement ramped up for Chisago Lakes when they got a massive serving run from Friedner and took a commanding 11-1 lead.
The ironic part about Friedner’s run is that she’s not a regular server for the ‘Cats. Lindstrom said she hasn’t served much all year, in fact, and it’s not typically her strength. But, the coaching staff noticed she was doing well in practice in the lead up to the game and the normal server in her spot was struggling, so they made the switch in the middle of the fourth set to allow Friedner to serve. “I guess that decision paid off,” Lindstrom said with a chuckle.
The two teams traded a few points but eventually CL claimed the set and the match with a 15-6 win.
Peltier had 23 kills from her middle hitter spot, but she was dangerous from all over the court in this one. Zins had 12 kills from the outside and Vugteveen and Friedner each had six kills for CL. Mikayla Grandaw had a wonderful night setting and Avery Dresel and Brianna Wille played some stellar defense. Dresel came up with a couple of key offensive points as well.
The win marks Chisago Lakes’ first ever trip to the state tournament in volleyball, where they’ll face third-seeded New Prague on Wednesday, November 10 at 7 p.m. Win or lose, the girls will play again on Friday night at 7 p.m. All of their games will be at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.