Royals volleyball team wins Big Lake Tourney

Watertown-Mayer setter Chelsea Wandersee attempts to block a shot during a match earlier this season.
Watertown-Mayer setter Chelsea Wandersee attempts to block a shot during a match earlier this season.

The Watertown-Mayer volleyball team stayed hot last week, winning five more matches and losing only one to the third ranked team in the state.

The Royals opened the week on Monday, Sept. 11, with a 3-0 victory over Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity. Later in the week, the Royals went on to fall 3-0 to Minnesota River Conference power Belle Plaine on Thursday, Sept. 13, but rebounded in a big way on Saturday, Sept. 15. That’s when the Royals swept four matches over Foley, Big Lake Hibbing and Zimmerman to win the championship of the Big Lake Tournament.

The Royals defeated Zimmerman 25-21, 25-16 in the championship match. It was a tournament Royals’ coach Janis Runka though his team could have success in , and the girls came through.

“Looking at the competition, I thought OK, if we play our game, we should come out of this thing, and we did,” Runka said. “We were able to use a couple different lineups and the girls executed well and played well.”

Watertown-Mayer got a big effort from Maggie Perrel in the tournament, who recorded 36 kills over the course of the day. Chelsea Wandersee had 69 assists, and Runka said the team’s biggest key to winning the tournament was its serving. Ashley Vealetzek and Brittni Grossinger had six aces apiece and Wandersee had five.

“I like the way we’re playing right now,” Runka said. “The girls are getting more and more experience. We just need to play a little better and execute better on our side of the net.”

The win over Lester Prairie on Sept. 11 was the third in a row for the Royals, and also their third consecutive sweep. The Royals won the first set 25-20 and took control of the match by dominating the second set, 25-12. The Royals finished off the Bulldogs with a 25-22 win in the final set.

Perrel’s 16 kills led the Royals’ offensive attack, and she added a team-high three blocks as well. Kate Theisen added seven kills for the Royals, and also was second on the team with 12 digs. Wandersee had 30 assists to lead Watertown-Mayer, and Kiana Paulson had seven digs.

“I think overall, we played well enough to win,” Runka said. “We did enough things well that we were able to pull out a win.”

On Thursday, however, the Royals ran into one of the state’s top teams in Belle Plaine. The Tigers, ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 2A, are 8-2 on the year, with their only losses coming to 3A schools. The Royals were able to hang around most of the night, but were ultimately swept by the Tigers, 25-19, 25-21, 25-17.

“We stuck with them,” Runka said. “They’re a bigger team, all their hitters hit hard, they’re a lot more experienced, but I thought we stepped up our game a little bit.”

Runka said the biggest difference between his club and Belle Plaine’s on that particular night was consistency. The Royals played well in stretches, he said, but allowed Belle Plaine to take brief control at certain points.

“We have to be more consistent in what we do, he said. “Sometimes at those critical times we just didn’t execute and let the other team get on a roll. We want to avoid those two-, three- and four-point runs.”
Perrel again led the Watertown-Mayer attack with 10 kills, while Wandersee, the team’s setter, chipped in with six kills while also distributing 26 assists. Theisen added five kills and Ashley Vealetzek added three.

Wandersee also led the team with 10 digs while Paulson had eight and Theisen and Katelyn Yliniemi both had six. Perrel once again had a team-high three blocks.

The Royals are now 8-5 overall and 1-1 in the Minnesota River Conference. They were also in action Monday, Sept. 17, at Mound-Westonka and Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Rockford. The Royals will return to action Thursday, Sept. 20, at No. 9 Jordan at 7:15 p.m., and Tuesday, Sept. 25, at Dassel-Cokato at 7 p.m.