The No. 1 Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines fought off three set points to avoid going down 2-0 to No. 3 New York Mills and found a new gear sweeping the final three games of a 3-1 victory (18-25, 29-27, 25-11, 25-22) in the Section 6A North subsection final at Perham high school Tuesday, Oct. 29.
“We came out extremely tentative; we tipped the ball and we don’t even practice tipping,” said head coach Sue Volkmann. “That’s certainly not our game. When we got that second game under our belts you could just see the kids release that tension and it gave them a lot of confidence. After that, we played a whole lot better.”
The teams played to a deadlock at 11-11 in the opening set before New York Mills took control.
A Tiffany Thompson ace gave the Eagles a 12-11 lead to build upon outscoring the Wolverines 13-7 down the stretch to take a 1-0 advantage.
“After the first we said that we had to turn our energy around and get the momentum on our side,” W-DC senior middle hitter Kennedy Gravelle said. “We were able to do that.”
Set two was a much tighter affair with neither team leading by more than two points and 10 ties up to 21-all and a race for four points.
The Eagles scored three straight looking to go up 2-0 in the match with a 24-21 lead.
Behind strong serving by senior Laura Krause, the Wolverines fought off all three points and scored another to get the first set point of their own at 25-24.
Each team scored alternating points with W-DC holding set points at 26-25, 27-26 and 28-27 on a Gravelle kill from the back row. The Wolverines went to Gravelle again and she evened the match at a set each scoring from the exact same spot back row left.
“That’s been our go-to back row attack,” Volkmann said. “That’s why she’s back there defensively, to give us that offense. We get awful young in the front row when she’s in the back with a freshman and two sophomores. We need that senior leadership out on the floor and she gives us that attack in the back.”
Wadena-Deer Creek looked like a different team in the third set taking care of business quickly with a 25-11 win to go up two sets to one. The Wolverines opened on a 10-2 run, followed by a subsequent 10-4 run to lead 20-6 in the fastest set of the night, a complete reversal from set two.
“Friday night against Frazee we played not to lose and we’ve been emphasizing we need to go out there and play to win,” Volkmann said. “It took a while to get that through their heads but once they got that second game it changed.”
The Wolverines broke open a 10-10 tie in the fourth set with three straight points, the last another kill from back left by Gravelle.
“It’s a new position,” she said. “I didn’t play back row last year and I worked on hitting back row. I was just told to be aggressive and hit at everything so that’s what I did.”
The Eagles rallied to regain their first lead since late in the second set on a Karli Kawlewski kill to go up 17-16 and Volkmann called a timeout.
Out of the break, senior setter Mackenzie Carsten faked a set down the net and flipped the ball into an empty middle of the Eagles’ defense to tie the score. Carsten stepped back to the service line and aced the Eagles to get the lead back.
NY Mills tied the score at 18 but would not lead again. Gravelle scored twice in a row, once from the middle of the court and the next from her spot in the back.
“When the momentum is on your side the confidence is too and that really helped us,” Gravelle said. “Especially, it gave our younger players confidence which was a huge part of their success, as well.”
Eagles head coach Tammy Olson used a timeout with NYM down 21-19. The Eagles scored out of the break to close to a one-point deficit before a three-point Wolverine rally. Madison Carsten positioned a perfect kill down the line line to the back corner of the court to give W-DC match point, which they secured two points later.
Wadena-Deer Creek (19-7) will face Henning (23-7) in a matchup of both subsection No. 1 seeds in the Section 6A championship game back in Perham Saturday, Nov. 2 at 7 p.m. The Hornets defeated Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 3-0 (25-18, 25-12, 25-14) in Barrett at West Central Area high school to advance out of the south subsection.
The Wolverines defeated the Hornets 3-2 (23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-22, 15-13) in Wadena in the only meeting between the teams in the regular season back in mid-September.
Wadena-Deer Creek 3, New York Mills 1 (18-25, 29-27, 25-11, 25-22)
Kills - Kennedy Gravelle-24, Maddie Carsten-12, Katelyn Gardner-4, MacKenzie Carsten-2, Ashley Lepinski-2, Laura Krause-1
Digs - Courtny Warren-23, Maddie Carsten-18, MacKenzie Carsten-8, Ashley Lepinski-7, Hailey Wiederich-4, Lauryn Gravelle-4, Kennedy Gravelle-2, Laura Krause-2, Katelyn Gardner-1, Mari Grandahl -1.
Serving - Kennedy Gravelle-13 for 13 with 2 aces, Maddie Carsten-8 for9, MacKenzie Carsten-15 for 16 with 2 aces, Courtney Warren-11 for 13, Hailey Wiederich-10 for 12 with 2 aces, Laura Krause-13 for 14,
Blocking - Kennedy Gravelle-5, Katelyn Gardner-2, Ashley Lepinski-1, Maddie Carsten-1
Setting Assists-MacKenzie Carsten-42