Volleyball: Pequot Lakes downs WDC in thrilling semifinal match

Pequot Lakes vs Wadena-Deer Creek in the Section 6-2A Semifinals Thursday, Nov. 3.

Pequot volleyball players hug and celebrate.
Pequot Lakes reacts to winning against Wadena-Deer Creek on Friday, Nov. 3, 2022, in Sauk Rapids.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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SAUK RAPIDS — In an instant classic, the No. 2 Pequot Lakes Patriots volleyball team survived to advance to the Section 6-2A final.

Pequot Lakes’ Grace Hoffard smashed her team-leading 19th kill to give the Patriots a 15-9 fifth set win over No. 3 Wadena-Deer Creek Thursday, Nov. 3, at Sauk Rapids High School.

“I just kept telling them they could do this,” said Chris Ganley, Pequot Lakes’ head coach. “They do it for each other. They play with such joy and courage. I’m so proud of them because we put them in a lot of tough tournaments, so they would be ready for those moments and it paid off tonight because Wadena brought it.”

On the flip side, WDC’s head coach Sue Volkmann said her team played their hearts out.

“There’s nothing much to say,” she said. “We played hard and just didn’t score the points at the right time.”


Pequot Lakes had three different players with 18 kills or more.

Maci Martini recorded 19 kills and 15 digs while Ella Kratochvil tallied 18 kills and 19 digs for the Patriots. Hoffard finished with five digs and two blocks along with her 19 kills.

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“All season, different girls have been the star,” Ganley said. “Tonight they all hit on and it was awesome.”

Madison Carsten led the way for WDC with a game-high 29 kills to go along with 19 digs.

“She’s done that all year,” Volkmann said. “She’s a high-caliber player at this level and she should have a really good future ahead of her.”

Ganley said Carsten was tough to defend.

“She can really jump,” Ganley said. “We put a block on her, but she knew to go over our shorter side. Although our libero did a good job of getting touches, the speed of the hit was really hard. I’m assuming she’ll get All-State because she’s an All-State player in my book.”

The Patriots started fast and walloped WDC in the first set 25-12. Martini recorded five kills in the opening set.


The Wolverines came back to win the second and third sets 25-23.

“We just had to believe in ourselves that we belong there,” Volkmann said. “We’ve come so far this year it’s unbelievable, the team we have now compared to our first game. They have it in them to play that well. We just needed to score at different times.”

In the second set, WDC jumped to an 11-4 lead. Pequot Lakes rallied to make it 20-18. It was Carsten who finished the second-set victory for the Wolverines.

Pequot Lakes squares up against Wadena-Deer Creek in volleyball on Friday, Nov. 3, 2022, for the Section 6-2A semifinals at Sauk Rapids.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The third set had a similar script with WDC jumping to an early 5-1 lead. Pequot Lakes battled back and it was 20-20 before Carsten slammed home the game-winning kill to put WDC ahead 2-1 in the match.

“We exploited their weakness on the right side,” Volkmann said. “We took advantage of that and found some other areas to attack. We just needed to score at the right time and it didn’t happen.”

Pequot dominated the fourth set with a 25-14 win. Martini recorded an ace to put the Patriots ahead 7-3. She then slammed a kill to make it 13-9 Pequot.

“We talked about keeping the foot on the gas,” Ganley said. “Sue is a great coach and she’s smart enough to have something to throw you off. And she did. We battled back.”

Both setters recorded monster games. Pequot’s Abi Martin tallied 55 set assists and 18 digs while WDC’s Addyson Gravelle tallied 53 set assists.


The Patriots play St. Cloud Cathedral, who upset top-seed Sauk Centre in the earlier game, in the Section 6-2A Final set for 3 p.m. Saturday.

“I think if we play like tonight it’ll be a great match,” Ganley said. “They are a good team. We don’t know them as well, so it’ll be a learning curve for us, too.”

Wadena-Deer Creek 12 25 25 14 9

Pequot Lakes 25 23 23 25 15

Pequot Lakes statistics

Abi Martin 55 set assists, 18 digs

Charlee Sullivan 5 digs, 1 set assist

Joselyn Rinio 5 kills, 4 blocks

Isabel Larson 6 digs, 2 kills, 4 blocks

Brea Eckes 5 digs, 1 set assist

Grace Hoffard 19 kills, 5 digs, 2 blocks

Maci Martini 19 kill, 15 digs, 1 ace serve, 1 set assist

Ella Kratochvil 18 kills, 19 digs, 2 ace serves, 2 blocks

Kelsi Martini 26 digs, 2 set assists

Wadena-Deer Creek statistics

Madison Carsten 29 kills, 19 digs, 1 ace serve, 2 blocks

Montana Carsten 40 digs

Jada Dykhoff 3 digs, 2 ace serves

Jenna Dykhoff 1 block

Addyson Gravelle 53 set assists, 2 kills

Payton Gravelle 10 kills, 2 blocks

Kayla Kircher 22 digs

Lola Pulver 9 kills

Emily Lepinski 8 kills

No. 2 Pequot Lakes 3, No. 3 Wadena-Deer Creek 2

Key: Three different hitters record 18 kills or more for Pequot Lakes as they come from behind to beat WDC.
Record: PL 26-4, WDC 21-5.
Next: Pequot Lakes vs. St. Cloud Cathedral at Sauk Rapids 3 p.m. in the Section 6-2A Finals Saturday, Nov. 5.

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
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