After a 1-4 start to the season, the Watertown-Mayer volleyball team came through in a big way last week with its best stretch of volleyball of thus far. The Royals swept all six sets they played, earning 3-0 sweeps of Holy Family Catholic on Tuesday, Sept. 4, and Tri City United on Thursday, Sept. 8.
For the Royals, who battled injuries to several key players early in the season, including leading hitters Maggie Perrel and Kate Theisen, returning to full health was a big reason for last week’s turnaround.
“Because of injuries we’ve been somewhat depleted,” Watertown-Mayer coach Janis Runka said. “We’ve got everybody back and healthy, so that’s good. We’re hopefully starting to click a little more. We have our putaway hitters, so we’re able to terminate the ball much better now than before, which helps.”
The week started for Watertown-Mayer with the win over Holy Family, which the Royals won with relative ease, 25-16, 25-22, 25-10. Theisen had a team-high 17 kills to go with 11 digs and three aces, and Perrel finished with 15 kills, six blocks and four aces. Ashley Vealetzek also continued her strong play with 14 kills, and Chelsea Wandersee added 30 assists for the Royals.
We had good blocking, our serves were tough, and I think our passing in the Holy Family game was better than in the TCU game,” Runka said. “That always leads to better attacking.”
Two nights later, the Royals kept up their strong play when they finally played their home-opener in their seventh match of this season. This time, the Royals swept Tri City United in a match that was much tighter than the Holy Family match. The Royals won the first set 25-20 after rallying from a few points down midway through the set, before outlasting TCU 30-28 in the second set. The Royals put the match away with a 25-23 win in the third set.
Runka said the close sets were a good test for his team, and that his squad showed good mental toughness to pull out all three.
“We kind of gave them a couple points after I thought we had them put away, but we hung tough,” Runka said. “That was the good thing. They were good character builders. We didn’t just fold and try to win the next game. We took care of business right away.”
Perrel led the Royals’ offensive attack with 15 kills and two aces, and she also added 12 digs and three blocks. Vealetzek finished with eight kills and three blocks, and Theisen had seven kills and two digs.
“Maggie had a couple good matches with 15 kills in each, Kate Theisen is getting her rhythm back, and Ashley Vealetzek is getting more confident, swinging well and getting the sets she needs.”
Wandersee added 32 assists for the Royals in the win over TCU. Kiana Paulson had two aces and five digs.
The Royals hosted Lester Prairie on Monday, Sept. 10, and will return to action Thursday, Sept. 13, with a stiff test against Belle Plaine. The Royals will also play in a tournament at Big Lake on Saturday beginning at 9 a.m., as well as Monday, Sept. 17, at Mound-Westonka at 7 p.m. and Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Rockford at 7 p.m. Runka hopes his team can continue to play solid volleyball, and believes his team is now on the right track after a rocky start.
“The girls feel it,” Runka said. “They’re working together, which always helps. We’re serving tough, blocking well, and we’re hitting well. Those kinds of things translate to good scores. We can always improve on our passing. It’s gotten better, but perfection is a far way off. But we’re working for exceptionalism, not perfection.”