Crusaders win MRC, begin postseason

With last week’s victory over Belle Plaine, the Mayer Lutheran volleyball team won the Minnesota River Conference with an undefeated 7-0 MRC record. Belle Plaine tied for second with LeSueur-Henderson at 7-2. The Crusaders closed the regular season early this week with a 2-2 finish at a Chaska tournament and a win over New Life Academy on Oct. 22.

Kicking off Oct. 20 with a match against Coon Rapids, the Crusaders won 25-20 and 25-20. Head coach Joelle Grimsley said it was a great start to the morning.

“[We] played hard and came back to win game one from behind,” she said. “Wonderful team effort.”

Serving was 87 percent, with senior Kristen Mielke going 14-14, assisted by senior Ashlyn Hucky who was 6-7.

The Crusaders next fell to Chaska 17-25 and 29-31. Grimsley said Chaska controlled the net in the first game, but the Crusaders battled hard for every point in the second.

“We had three chances to win the set,” she said.

Mayer Lutheran served 50-55, with Kuntz (9-9), Schmidt (10-10), Hucky (9-10), Schroeder (7-8), and Sicheneder (5-6). The team had 23 kills. The Crusaders went on to defeat Southwest Christian 25-23 and 27-25. The team collected 35 kills, 29 digs, 28 set assists, and five blocks, while serving at 95 percent with two aces.

Grimsley said the Crusaders had no errors, which made it easier for the comeback victory in both sets.

“I was very pleased with our defense and our focused attitude,” she said.

In their final match of the tournament, the Crusaders fell to Belle Plaine, a team they had just recently defeated for the MRC title. Falling 16-25 and 21-25, Grimsley said the team lacked the quick pace they needed to succeed, dragged further down by multiple errors. Trailing 13-22 in game two, Mayer Lutheran stepped up the defense for a huge comeback.

“It was good to see us end playing better volleyball,” Grimsley said.

For the tournament, senior Nico Schmidt had 48 kills and 14 digs. Senior Kristen Mielke tallied 25 kills and one block. With six kills, senior Ashlyn Hucky contributed over 60 set assists for the team. Junior Jessi Grimsley led the team with 24 digs, followed by junior Shelby Sicheneder (14), junior Lauren Schroeder (10), and senior Emma Christopherson (2). Sicheneder also had five kills. Sophomore Maria Kuntz had eight kills.

On Monday, Mayer Lutheran defeated New Life Academy 3-0 in their final game of the regular season, finishing with a 21-7 record.

The Crusaders drew the No. 2 seed in Section 4A and hosted No. 18 PACT on Wednesday, Oct. 24. Mayer Lutheran won 3-0 and will play St. Agnes on Friday, Oct. 26.