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Wolverines qualify for state volleyball tournament

​Wadena-Deer Creek volleyball players celebrate after receiving the Section 6A championship trophy Saturday night in Pelican Rapids. The Wolverines defeated Underwood 3-1 for a berth in the Class A state volleyball tournament. Brian Hansel/Pioneer Journal

The state-ranked Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines shook off some early jitters against a talented Underwood squad Saturday to win the Section 6A volleyball championship.

The Wolverines lost the opener 25-22 but won the next three 25-23, 25-17 and 25-21.

Next stop for the Wolverines? Downtown St. Paul and the Xcel Energy Center where they will be one of eight clubs vying for a state championship.

Ellie Miron, who collected 15 kills in the 3-1 victory, was an elementary student when her older sister Emily was part of a WDC squad that made regular visits to the Xcel.

​WDC's Ellie Miron (14) slapped a kill between two defending Underwood players.

"Ever since I was in elementary school and I watched my sister going down to state I thought it was the most awesome thing ever," Miron said. "In my seventh grade year when they got defeated in the finals she made me promise her that I would do everything I could to make it to state so now I can tell her that I did."

Miron was not the only member of the 2017 volleyball teams with memories of state. Teammate Casey Volkmann saw both of her older sisters, Courtney and Caitlin, play in the state tournament.

Going into Saturday's section showdown with the Rockets the WDC senior saw her teammates struggling with nerves. After losing to Underwood in Game 1 the Wolverines found themselves down 22-20 in the second set before

Volkmann did her part to keep the Wolverines on an even keel by recording a team-high 18 kills and two aces.

"They were a very good team," Volkmann said in praising the Rockets. "That is probably one of the hardest games I have every played. Some of us were kind of nervous. We played here Thursday so we were excited to be back. It's been like a home court advantage."

One of WDC's key front line performers Saturday was junior Kennedy Gravelle, who made things rough at the net for Underwood with eight kills. The 6-1 sophomore is one of nine underclassmen who helped put the Wolverines back in state for the first time since 2011.

"It's so surreal. we've been dreaming about his forever and we were so close last year it just feels amazing," Gravelle said.

Wadena-Deer Creek middle hitter Kennedy Gravelle (7) blocked a shot by Underwood's Sara Swartz.

Gravelle's steady play in the middle helped the Wolverines keep the Rockets at bay.

"They have a couple of good hitters and we knew we had to block them and play good defense against them," Gravelle said. "They did very good tonight and we were just able to come out on top."

The 25-6 Wolverines will not know who their first round foe at state will be until the seedings are determined. The top five teams are seeded. The tournament kicks off Thursday with two matches at 1 p.m. and two more at 3 p.m.

Brenna Tinjum led the Rockets with a game-high 21 kills. Teammate Emma Fitzgibbons added 19 kills.

The Rockets ended their season with a 25-7 record.