Crusaders win Class A Showcase

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The Mayer Lutheran volleyball team experienced the first loss of the season, but it was only a bump in the road as the Crusaders quickly got back to their winning ways. After falling to the reigning state champions on Sept. 22, Mayer Lutheran went 6-0 at the Class A Showcase on the way the championship.

MLHS 3 BL-H-S 0

The Crusaders won their 10th straight game to open the season, defeating Welcome to Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart 3-0 Sept. 20. Maddy Hucky said that the team’s success comes from working well together.

“We just play as a team and our chemistry is really good compared to last year,” she said. “We all just work as a team. There is no weak spot I’d say, we all compliment each other. It’s just fun playing.”

The Crusaders came out on fire against the Mustangs, with Hucky and Lauren Wandersee setting their teammates up well.

“We came out and started very strong,” coach Joelle Grimsley said. “Maddy and Lauren were able to move the ball around offensively and get shots from all areas on the court. Madi Beck and Sophie each had three kills while Lucy, Rachel and Liv each added one. [We were] were able to keep their errors down and play solid defense.”

After winning the first set 25-10, errors plagued the Crusaders, though they still managed to win the final two sets 25-19 and 25-20.

“The rest of the night was a bit different as [we] created a few errors that allowed Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart to catch us off guard,” Grimsley said. “At one time we created five errors in a row. At least we will have practice tomorrow and get a chance to work through a few things before we play Belle Plaine. As the season progresses we have to continue to work hard and stay sharp and learn along the way.”

Hucky said that while the team didn’t play their best, they feel good about the undefeated start, and know they will be tested down the line.

“[We feel] really good,” she said. “Now were going to try to use it and build off of it.”

Nicole Klaustermeier led the team with 18 digs, followed by Beck (6) and Hucky (2).

Hucky had a team-high 19 assists, while Wandersee and Riley Corrigan had seven each, and Beck had three.

Hucky also led the team with 10 kills, followed by Beck (5), Olivia Tjernagel (5), Lucy Koch (3), Haley Rohwer (3), Rachel Roepke (3), Tina Saulsbury (2) and Mallory Kuntz (1).

Rohwer had two blocks, Tjernagel had one, and Hucky tallied four aces.

MLHS 0 Belle Plaine 3

It took nearly a month, but the Crusaders lost their first game of the season, falling to the reigning state champions of Class AA.

Mayer Lutheran looked strong early, but Belle Plaine got a boost from a strong server.

“Every match we go onto the floor with a game plan,” said Grimsley. “Tonight [we] started out the first set strong as Belle Plaine made a few errors. We were up 8–5 when Mo went back to serve, and when we finally got the ball back it was 8–16. She was on fire and we were just not able to get the side out. After that string we were not able to find the early rhythm and finished the set 14–25.”

The Crusaders bounced back in the next two sets, but could not upend the Tigers, falling 25-17 and 25-18.

“The next two sets were back and forth for a while and we were able to serve receive more effectively and keep the ball alive,” Grimsley said. “Belle Plaine is a very strong team. We will watch video on this and learn from it. Always something to work at and get better at.”

Wandersee led the Crusaders with 10 assists, followed by Hucky’s seven.

Hucky led the team with nine kills, Tjernagel had three, Beck and Roepke each recorded two, and Koch had one.

Klaustermeier tallied six digs, followed by Beck’s five and Hucky’s three.

MLHS 1 Windom 1

The Crusaders struggled a bit after losing their first game of the season, but managed to pick up the win on point differential. Mayer Lutheran won the first set 25-17 but lost the second set 25-23.

“We came out to start off the tournament a little bit groggy from the night before I feel,” Grimsley said. “We were able to put together a few great runs and finish the first set off. The second set was just a back and forth dog fight.”

MLHS 2 Legacy Christian Academy 0

Mayer Lutheran was still playing below their best, but defeated Legacy Christian Academy in straight sets 25-22 and 25-14, led by Beck’s nine kills.

“I felt like we were still not playing great defensively,” Grimsley said. “We were standing a bit flat footed and watching more than being aggressive and fighting for each ball.”

MLHS 2 Kittson County Central 0

Playing in the third game of the tournament, the Crusaders found their footing.

“The Crusader team was back,” said Grimsley. “The hustle and urgency was back. I am not sure what clicked at 8 p.m. Friday night but it finally did and we were moving in the right direction again. I told the girls how happy [we were that] they were back. I think they just wanted to get it over with and go home and sleep. They played great as a team and put the ball away.”

Mayer Lutheran won in straight sets, 25-21 and 25-12.

MLHS 2 Verndale 1

The Crusaders and Pirates got together for what was a great battle between to great teams. Mayer Lutheran and Verndale were deadlocked at 15-15 in the opening set, but the Crusaders struggled down the stretch.

“The game started with a pretty good battle,” Grimsley said. “Then we sat back and started watching what was going on. Verndale is a great team that took advantage of what we were doing and scored the next 10 points to our one point.”

Verndale had all the momentum and several chances to win the match, but the Crusaders were resilient, led by a spark from Beck and Saulsbury.

“Verndale had a lot of momentum going into the second set and kept that going for awhile as we started to wake back up a bit,” Grimsley said. “We were able to get Madi Beck going and started feeding off of her big kills more and more. Nic and Sophie started picking up the pace in the back row. This set was unbelievable as [we stayed] strong, as Verndale had four set/ match points. Tina came in and gave the team a huge spark adding four blocks and five kills. We really felt like we squeaked this game by. The mental toughness in this group was great to see as set three went back and forth also.”

After dropping the first set 25-16, the Crusaders won the next two 31-29 and 15-12.

Beck had a team-high 10 kills, and added six digs. Hucky and Wandersee led the team in assists with 17 and 15, while Hucky tallied eight kills and Wandersee had six digs.

Saulsbury finished with five kills and four blocks, Koch had four kills, Klaustermeier had four digs, and Tjernagel had two kills.

MLHS 2 Minneota 0

The Crusaders continued to roll along, winning yet another match in the Class A Showcase, this time defeating Minneota 25-22 and 26-24.

“Great competition today,” Grimsley said. “Overall in the match our serve receive did a fantastic job which helped us get many side outs quickly. Nic, Sophie and Madi were involved in this success as the game proceeded. We were able to out hustle and just play scrappy. In each set, [we] finished strong which is something we have been working on.”

The depth of Mayer Lutheran was on display in the 2-0 win, with the Crusaders getting strong performances from players who were called upon to step up.

“To finish set two, Tina had a block, Sophie a kill, and Lauren an ace,” Grimsley said. “Staying consistent and performing an individual skill which leads to overall success as a team. Today was a great example of how this group works united as a team. Some did not perform up to their potential and others on the court and substitutes came in and gave that extra spark that was needed.

Beck had a team-high 10 kills, also adding seven digs and a pair of blocks.

Hucky led the team with 21 assists, while also picking up seven digs and six kills.

Sophie Heuer had nine kills to go along with nine digs and an assist.

Saulsbury led the Crusaders in blocks, rejecting five hits from Minneota while adding a kill.

Wandersee had six assists and a dig, Koch had three digs and a kill, Tjernagel had two kills, Klaustermeier had six digs, and Corrigan had one dig.

MLHS 2 Tracy 0

Despite playing seven games in three days, the Crusaders played with the energy of a rested team.

“It was an incredible way to finish the tournament,” Grimsley said. “The girls left all they had out on that court. This would be set number 15 and 16 for them in the past 3 days and I talked to them about the shape they are in – they were ready for the battle. Tracy does a great job of serve receive and keeping the ball alive.”

Mayer Lutheran came out strong in the opening set, defeating Tracy-Milroy-Balaton 25-23, then took the second set 25-19.

“[We] started strong and really never had many lows throughout the two set match,” Grimsley said. “We did not serve receive as well as usual but our defense put the throttle down and played extremely tough to keep the ball alive.”

Heuer and Hucky led what was a total team effort, with Heuer tallying a record 16 digs and 10 kills, with Hucky finishing with eight kills.

“Again, it was a total team effort that added to this last win for the day,” Grimsley said. ”I was so proud of these girls, this goes down as one of the highlights in my coaching experiences.”

Wandersee finished with eight assists and four digs, Klaustermeier had seven digs, Beck tallied three kills and six digs, and Tjernagel recorded four kills and an assist.

Heuer and Hucky’s great final game capped off an impressive weekend for the duo.

“A congratulations goes out also to Sophie, who was named on the All-Tournament team, and to Maddy Hucky, who was chosen as the MVP of the tournament,” Grimsley said. “It is a team sport as we know, but it is always nice to get a recognition like this. Everyone on this team puts forth equal amount of effort which leads to these two getting these high honors. Congratulations Crusaders.”