On Oct. 10, the Watertown-Mayer High School volleyball team played a home match against Sibley East that was hardly competitive.
The Wolverines won in straight sets on Watertown-Mayer’s senior night, winning 25-19, 25-16, 25-19.
So when the sixth seeded Royals drew a first-round playoff matchup at third-seeded Sibley East exactly two weeks later, on paper at least, the Royals’ outlook in Section 2AA didn’t look promising.
But first-year Watertown-Mayer coach Andrea Raser said all along that it wasn’t a shortage of skill or talent that cost her team that first matchup against Sibley East, but that it was actually a lack of killer instinct and will to win. She was confident all along that her real team would show up last Thursday night in Gaylord for the rematch against Sibley East (19-9-1), and she sure was right.
Watertown-Mayer jumped out to a quick two set lead against the Wolverines on Oct. 24 at Sibley East Junior High, and eventually staved off a Sibley East rally with a 15-11 fifth-set victory to claim a 3-2 win. With the victory, the Royals (13-14) advanced to take on second-seeded Jordan in New Prague on Tuesday, after this edition went to press.
“The girls played with heart for every point of the five-set match,” Raser said. “We had the opportunity to show Sibley East — who we previously lost to in three sets — how we really play, and we did.”
The Royals roared out of the gates against the Wolverines, winning the first two sets, 25-20 and 25-23.
However, Sibley East didn’t cave. The Wolverines took the third set, 25-21, and then barely staved off elimination by outlasting the Royals for a 28-26 win in the fourth set to tie the match at 2-2. The Royals won the fifths set, 15-11.
“There was not a mid-match lull like the girls have been struggling with all season,” Raser said. “They just played and played with intensity the entire time. We had a plan, executed the plan, and the plan worked.”
Ashley Vealetzek had her second consecutive huge match for the Royals, tying her career high of 39 kills she had set just one match earlier. She also finished with 6.5 blocks and 16 digs.
Senior setter Chelsea Wandersee was second on the team with five kills, and she also had 15 assists, 13 digs and a team-high three aces. Lily Reinert had four kills and Ashley Kelzer had three. Senior libero Kianna Paulson had a team-high 22 digs, and Kelzer added 10.
On Tuesday, the Royals faced a Jordan team that entered the contest with a 17-12-1 record, including a second-place finish in the Minnesota River Conference. Jordan beat the Royals 3-1 earlier this season in Watertown.
“We’re looking forward to playing them again,” Raser said.
If the Royals beat Jordan, they would play Thursday against either top-seeded Belle Plaine or fifth-seeded Norwood Young America at 7:45 p.m. at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter.
Contact Matt Bunke at email@example.com