A team(s) effort
Sue Volkmann still has a good vertical.
The head coach of the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines proved it Saturday night when she saw her first volleyball team qualify for the Class AA state tournament.
"It's wonderful, it's unbelievable," Volkmann said.
The Section 8AA championship trophy Volkmann clutched after the awards ceremony was a prize she cherished as much as any of the girls who had to walk dejectedly off the court after seeing their season end.
"This one is for all the kids that have come through the program and have come so close and worked so hard and now we finally did it and I am just so happy for all of our kids," Volkmann said. "They played wonderful. They held in there. We struggled at times but we still got the points we needed."
The state-ranked Wolverines did not just knock at the door Saturday, they broke it down. Led by Brigetta Berg's 32 kills and 27 digs, the Wolverines defeated East Grand Forks 25-17, 22-25, 25-21, 25-15 for the school's first state tournament berth since 1992.
After rallying from a 2-0 deficit last Tuesday to defeat No. 1-ranked Perham for the South Section 8AA championship 3-2, the Wolverines were focused for their title match with Section 8AA north champion East Grand Forks. The Green Wave had great height at the net, led by 6-2 junior Kate Warmack and 6-0 senior Brooke Vonasek. What they did not have was Berg, a 5-10 senior middle hitter who has been the go-to player for Wadena-Deer Creek all season.
"We've been working so hard for this," Berg said. "It's been our goal ever since the beginning of the year."
Berg had 11 saves in the third game as the Wolverines survived several runs by the Green Wave for a four-point victory. The final game belonged to WDC from the outset as they jumped out to a 9-1 lead.
Brittney Noon backed Berg up with 18 kills. Volkmann and Kelly DeFoe led the Wolverines with eight blocks apiece while Rachael Carlisle recorded five blocks.
The Wolverines will face fourth-seeded Hibbing at 5 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinal round of Class AA state action at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The Bluejackets enter state play with a 24-7 record. Gail Nucech has a senior-dominated team that played in the Class 3A state tournament last year. Nucech will be taking her 22nd Hibbing team to state. All five of Nucech's seniors -- Paige Hardy, Kelsey Wirtanen, Jill Gandsey, Kaitlyn Adrich and Melissa Nyberg -- are solid players who have taken turns hurting the opposition.
Rounding out the Class 2A's state quarterfinal field will be No. 1-seeded Jordan against Delano, No. 2 Marshall against Concordia Academy of Roseville and No. 3 St. Cloud Cathedral against Stewartville.
The Wolverines have been ranked in the state's Top 10 since the beginning of the year. They had a 10-game winning streak at one point and will take a 26-6 record into the state tournament.
"This team is really close, the team chemistry is great," said Courtney Volkmann, who had 42 assists in the section championship match, "Everyone is friends and we play for each other."
Courtney Volkmann is looking forward to a new experience at this year's state tournament.
"We're usually watching the state tournament and now we get to play," she said.