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Wolverines open state with Ada-Borup/NCW

Wadena-Deer Creek volleyers, coaches and fans anticipated the end of Saturday's fourth and final game with Underwood. The Wolverines defeated Underwood for their first trip to state since the 2011 season. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

After some nervous moments, the Wadena-Deer Creek volleyball team settled in and accomplished its goal of capturing the Section 6A Championship and securing a berth at the Class A State Tournament.

The Wolverines found themselves down one set and trailing in the second set. They went on a late run and took control of the match, securing a 3-1 victory over Underwood.

“We are really happy. That was one of our goals this year to make that a reality,” Wadena-DC head coach Sue Volkmann said. “We worked pretty hard at it on Saturday and achieved our goal.”

The Wolverines will be making their seventh trip to the state tournament and first since the 2011 season. They will square off with a familiar opponent when they take on Ada-Borup/Norman County West in the first round. The Wolverines were defeated in an end of the season tournament by A-B/NCW.

“We know they have a good middle and a good outside hitter. When you play in tournaments like that, it’s kind of hard to tell sometimes because you are playing two out of three and playing in the morning or the afternoon, you never know what’s going on throughout the course of the day with the kids,” Volkmann said. “I’m trying to think back to what it was like and it was such a quick game. I didn’t really take a lot from it. I’m looking around to see if I can find stuff out about them.”

The Wolverines have faced a loaded schedule that’s helped them prepare for this moment. They kept their schedule from their days in Section 8AA, while playing several large schools in tournaments at Moorhead, Sauk Rapids/Rice and St. Michael-Albertville.

Kora Kritzberger leads the Cougar attack. She finished with 369 kills on the season. The middle hitter finished with 100 blocks as well. Mariah McKeever is second on the team in kills with 196, while Bailee Brommenschenkel has 160 kills on the season.

Lila Lohmiller said the Cougars came in really strong with a lot of intensity in their previous match in Moorhead.

“We need to pick up our game and didn’t play to our high expectations and standards,” Lohmiller said. “I have all the faith in the world that we can compete. (The keys will be) communication, calling the ball and having a lot of excitement and intensity coming into it and getting excited about every single point.”

The Wolverines counter with a potent attack of their own led by Casey Volkmann. Casey Volkmann finished the season with 582 kills. Ellie Miron added 316 kills on the season while Kennedy Gravelle finished with 169 kills. Gravelle has been a force in the middle for the Wolverines, leading the way with 72 blocks at the net.

The Wolverines have had a target on their back all season long, being state-ranked while being the heavy favorites in Section 6A.

“It’s kind of nice having a target on your back, because you know you are the team to beat,” Miron said. “When you have that, a lot of people are going to have a lot of fire against you. Overcoming that and coming out with more fire is all the more rewarding.”

The Wolverines have a core group of seniors who have made this a dream of theirs since the last Wadena-DC team made it to state in 2011. Volkmann, Miron, Katlyn Heaton and Lila Lohmiller all had an impact on the team in different ways. Volkmann and Miron are key players up in the front row, while Heaton and Lohmiller specialize in the back row. Lohmiller finished the season with 297 digs, while Heaton ended with 188.

“This team worked really hard to get where we wanted to be,” Heaton said. “I remember when we were younger and we all promised each other that this is what we were doing our senior year. We were all ready for it and we got there. We are all really pumped.”

The Cougars enter with a record of 21-10, having defeated two No. 1 seeds in Section 8A to get to the state tournament. They dropped just two sets in the 8A Tournament, on their way to the Xcel Energy Center.

The Wolverines enter play with a 25-6 record overall. The Cougars and the Wolverines square off at 1 p.m. on Nov. 9 in St. Paul.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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