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Volleyball: Wadena-Deer Creek makes quick work of Pillager in first-round sweep

The Wadena-Deer Creek volleyball team surrendered just 15 points in its sweep over Pillager on Thursday night. The Wolverines will host Albany on Tuesday night at home in the second round.

A. all smile 3 Madison Carsten, 4 Payton Gravelle, 1 Addyson Gravelle.JPG
From left to right: Addyson Gravelle, Maddie Carsten and Payton Gravelle celebrate a point in the Wolverines' sweep of Pillager in the first round of the Section 6-2A tournament on Oct. 27, 2022.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal
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The 2022 playoffs began Thursday night for the Wadena-Deer Creek Wolverines with a Section 6-2A matchup against the Pillager Huskies. The Wolverines were looking to get past the first round of playoffs for the first time since 2019.

The two teams played a match just nine days before, with WDC defeating the Huskies in straight sets. This match was no different.

The Wolverines cruised past the Huskies in shutout fashion, defeating Pillager 25-3, 25-9, 25-3 to win 3-0 and grant their first second-round berth in three seasons.

The first set started with a WDC eleven-point run before Pillager picked up its first point. A couple of back-and-forth points made the score 13-2 in favor of WDC, with the Huskies up to serve. A kill by WDC made the score 14-2 and sparked another big run. The Wolverines reeled off seven straight points to put them up big at 20-2.

Pillager managed to stop the Wolverine run, but WDC closed the first set on a 5-0 streak, including a kill by senior Emily Lepinski that gave the Wolverines the win.

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Wadena-Deer Creek's Addison Carr warms up for the Wolverines' first-round playoff game against Pillager on Oct. 27, 2022.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

“We had just played them last week, and it was the same type of game,” said WDC girls volleyball head coach Sue Volkmann about what the team was expecting going into their round one playoff game, “We knew coming in that we had to stay focused and not play down to their level. We definitely didn’t.”

WDC kept the intensity going into the second set. With the score knotted at 5-5, the Wolverines opened things up with eight straight points to fortify a 13-5 lead. They extended their lead to 16-9 before WDC ended the second set, scoring nine consecutive points, which was capped off by a Kayla Kircher ace.

The last set was no different than the first. The Wolverines rolled to a 5-0 lead before a Pillager point was scored. The Wolverines then roped off a 12-0 run, their longest run of the night.

Another Wolverine run was stopped by the Huskies’ point, who were hanging on for dear life to keep their season alive. Ahead 23-3, WDC gave the Huskies the final blow, rattling off two straight points to end the match and Pillager’s season.

“We kept our play up and didn’t allow for it to go down to a lower level,” Volkmann said. “We stayed that way for three straight games. I was really proud of the girls for that.”

Senior Madison Carsten was all over the court Thursday night.

“I think we came out with a lot of energy and did what we needed to do to get the win.”

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The Wadena-Deer Creek volleyball team meets in a huddle before its sweep of Pillager in the first round of the Section 6-2A tournament on Oct. 27, 2022 at WDC High Schoo.
Nick Leonardelli / Wadena Pioneer Journal

Carsten saw her high school volleyball career take a pause for a year and a half after suffering two straight knee injuries. However, that wasn’t stopping her from embracing this special season.

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“Everyone has really stepped up and put the love for the game into their play,’ she said. “That has really helped us work together and put on a good show. I think we can do some damage this year.”.

With one of her best teams in recent years, Volkmann knows that wins like this won’t come this easy from here on out.

“After tonight, everything gets really tight,” she said. “We happen to be in one of the best sections in the state. We have to be at the top of our game. We even need to play a whole lot better tonight. We got to be ready.”

The Wolverines will welcome the sixth-seeded Albany Huskies to their home court Tuesday for the second round. Albany is coming off a first-round sweep against Osakis. The first serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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