The Watertown-Mayer volleyball team played its best ball of the season on Saturday, Sept. 7, when the Royals went 3-1 at the Litchfield Tournament to finish in second place.
The Royals rattled off three consecutive wins to open the tournament and advance to the championship, where they eventually lost to Dassel-Cokato, 2-0. However, it was still an impressive performance from the Royals, who opened with wins over Paynesville, Litchfield and ACGC.
“The girls played solid all day long,” said Watertown-Mayer coach Andrea Raser, whose team lost a pair of tough road matches earlier in the week to Holy Family and Belle Plaine.
In the championship of the Litchfield Tournament, Dassel-Cokato defeated the Royals 2-0. DC took the first set, 25-22, and took the title with a 25-19 win in the second set.
“Overall, the girls played consistent and did a great job on defense,” Raser said. “Our serve receive passing was not as solid as it had been earlier in the day, and that affected our ability to run our offense.”
Ashley Vealetzek had 10 kills to lead the Royals offense, while Lily Reinert added four kills and three aces. Chelsea Wandersee had 17 assists, and Kaitlyn Yliniemi had 12 digs. Wandersee added nine digs, Kiana Paulson had seven and Ashley Kelzer had six.
The Royals opened the tournament with a 25-17, 25-18 win over Paynesville. Vealetzek, who hit an impressive .846 in the match, finished with 11 kills, while Amanda Wabbe added four kills and Victoria Lynch had three. Wandersee had 15 assists, and Paulson and Vealetzek each had eight digs. Caitlin Duske and Wandersee each had two aces.
“We passed very solid on serve receive,” Raser said.
In the second round, Watertown-Mayer defeated Litchfield 2-1. The Royals won the first set 25-20, and after Litchfield stayed alive with a 25-21 win in the second, Watertown-Mayer won a pressure-packed third-set, 19-17.
Vealetzek racked up 20 kills in the match, and Kelzer had 10. Wandersee added 28 assists and four kills. Paulson led the team with 17 digs while Vealetzek had 15 and Kelzer and Yliniemi had 14 apiece.
“The team had another great defensive game,” Raser said.
The Royals advanced to the championship match with a 2-0 win over ACGC, winning 25-21, 25-16. Vealetzek had 12 of the team’s 19 kills in the match, while Chelsea Wandersee had 12 assists and Amanda Strom had three. Paulson had a team-high 17 digs, while Britni Grossinger had six.
Prior to the Litchfield Tournament, the Royals lost two matches to a pair of tough teams earlier in the week, falling 3-1 at Holy Family on Tuesday, Sept. 3, and 3-0 at Belle Plaine on Thursday, Sept. 5.
The Royals played well in their match against Holy Family, with each of the first three sets being decided by three points or fewer, and two of them needing extra points to decide. The Royals prevailed in the first set, 28-26, before Holy Family rattled off the next three, winning them by scores of 25-22, 26-24 and 25-13.
First year head coach Andrea Raser said her team actually played quite well against the Wright County Conference opponent.
“Although we didn’t come out with a win, it was hard to be disappointed with the way we played,” Raser said. “The players did a great job of making adjustments on defense and ran a very strong offense off of our passing and digging.”
Ashley Vealetzek led the way offense with 16 kills, and she also chipped in with three blocks and eight digs. Lily Reinert had 10 kills and seven digs, and Ashley Kelzer had nine kills. Chelsea Wandersee had 32 assists and added 10 digs, and libero Kiana Paulson had 15 digs.
Raser said her team was competitive all night, but just needs to find a way to put sets away.
“The next step will finishing the game, which we struggled with in sets two and three,” she said. “We were in a position to win both.”
Things didn’t get any easier for the Royals on Thursday, when they traveled to take on perennial Minnesota River Conference and state powerhouse Belle Plaine. The Tigers defeated the Royals 25-21, 25-16, 25-15.
“We had a great start against a great team,” Raser said of a competitive first set, before Belle Plaine began to take control. “We had a tough time getting our offense running due to mediocre passing on serve receive. We didn’t give ourselves as many opportunities to let our front row do their job.”
Vealetzek had nine kills and four block assists, while Kelzer added five kills and two block assists. Wandersee had 16 assists, four kills and two aces, and Paulson had 10 digs.
“Belle Plaine is a strong team and we are too,” Raser said. “We just need to remember to play like it.”
The road-heavy schedule for the Royals continued early this week, when the Royals traveled to take on Lester Prairie/Holy Trinity on Monday, Sept. 9. The Royals will play just their second home match when they return to the court at 7:15 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 12, when they host Jordan. The Royals will be back on the road, at Delano, on Monday, Sept. 16, and will host Mound-Westonka on Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Contact Matt Bunke at [email protected]