Head coach Stephanie Hanson said execution would be the key to sending the Park Rapids volleyball team to the state Class AA tournament for the first time in school history.
The Panthers picked the worst time to play their worst match of the season.
Roseau capitalized on Park Rapids errors for a 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21 victory Saturday night at Fosston in the Section 8AA championship match. That win avenged a 25-11, 25-14, 20-25, 25-15 loss to the Panthers on Aug. 29 and sent Roseau to the state tournament for the first time since 2000.
"I thought we were prepared for Roseau. We've focused all year on being mentally ready, but things didn't seem to go our way all night. We just couldn't find a rhythm. We needed to finish, but we didn't do it for the first time all year," said Hanson. "We definitely beat ourselves. We made too many errors and you can't do that against a good team. We played our worst match of the season at the worst time."
"We knew this team was going to be tough. They had only lost twice all year; once to Wadena-Deer Creek in five sets and once (to Melrose) in a tournament," said Roseau's Becky Hayden, who was named Section 8AA Coach of the Year. "They're a well-rounded team with a lot of offensive threats. I didn't trust any lead against them. Our girls battled through and had the mindset that we're going to win."
The Rams faced elimination in the Section 8AA North championship match, trailing Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 25-22, 14-25, 23-25, 11-17 before rallying to win the final two sets 25-23 and 15-12 to advance to the section title match.
Roseau once again had to rally from an early deficit to win the pivotal opening set.
A pair of kills by Rilee Michaelson, two kills by Kamree Carlson, and kills by Katelyn Weaver and Kayleah Breitweser gave Park Rapids a 14-11 lead. Two Park Rapids service errors; kills by Victoria Johnson, Kacie Borowicz and Riley Bjerklie; and blocks by Johnson and Erin Leverington led Roseau in the early going.
Michaelson served four points and Weaver had a kill as the Panthers led 18-11. Roseau rallied behind a pair of kills by Borowicz and Johnson, kills by Ella Helgeson and Leverington, and a block by Leverington for a 22-22 tie. After Kamree Carlson pounded down a kill to give Park Rapids a 23-22 lead, kills by Bjerklie and Borowicz and an error by the Panthers helped Roseau win Set 1.
The Panthers didn't let a big lead slip away in Set 2 to even the match.
Five ace serves offset five errors as Park Rapids jumped out to a 19-10 lead. Kamree Carlson, Weaver, Kaisa Coborn, Jaiden McCollum and Kennedy Carlson served aces while McCollum had three kills and Kamree Carlson had two kills. Michaelson and Coborn also had kills as Park Rapids wiped out a 6-3 Roseau lead.
A kill by Kamree Carlson and two kills by McCollum gave the Panthers a 24-17 advantage. Roseau used an ace serve by Katie Borowicz to make it 24-21 before Park Rapids closed out the set.
Both teams battled to a 9-9 tie in Set 3 before Roseau took control.
Two kills by McCollum, kills by Michaelson and Kamree Carlson, and an ace serve by Kennedy Carlson led the Panthers in the early going while Roseau used four kills by Johnson and two Park Rapids service errors to forge a tie.
A kill by Kacie Borowicz and six service points by Leverington, including an ace, gave Roseau a 16-9 advantage. Bjerklie had two kills during that stretch. Two kills by Coborn and kills by Michaelson, McCollum and Kamree Carlson kept the Panthers within 22-17 before a kill by Leverington and a Park Rapids error ended that set.
Set 4 featured a 13-13 tie before Roseau gained an edge to close out the match.
Three straight kills by Michaelson staked the Panthers to a 3-0 lead before a service error and four service points by Kacie Borowicz gave Roseau a 5-3 lead. An ace serve by Michaelson and kills by Kamree Carlson and McCollum were offset by kills by Johnson and Bjerklie as the set was tied at 9-9. Michaelson had a block and kill and Kennedy Carlson had a kill while a kill by Leverington and two more Park Rapids errors resulted in a 13-13 tie.
Kacie Borowicz served an ace and three points and Johnson had a kill to give the Rams a 17-13 advantage before kills by Coborn, McCollum, Kamree Carlson and Michaelson cut the gap to 20-19. Two Park Rapids service errors gave Roseau a 23-21 edge before a kill by Johnson and ace serve by Lyvia Moser closed out the match.
Johnson's 14 kills, two blocks and 13 set assists and Kacie Borowicz's 11 kills and 20 digs led the Rams. Johnson (30 kills, 22 set assists) and Kacie Borowicz (20 kills, 27 digs) also had double-doubles in the win over D-G-F. Bjerklie added seven kills and two blocks, Leverington had six kills, Moser had 19 set assists, Huss had 19 digs and Katie Borowicz had 17 digs as Roseau improved to 24-9 on the season. Kacie Borowicz (15), Leverington (14) and Huss (11) had double digits in service points. Roseau was able to overcome 23 hitting errors, six service errors and seven errors on serve receive to qualify for state.
The Rams will face Marshall (the No. 2 seed with a 26-7 record) in a state quarterfinal match Thursday night (Nov. 9) at 7 at the Xcel Energy Center. The other state quarterfinal matches feature No. 1 Maple Lake (33-0) against Kenyon-Wanamingo (22-7), No. 3 North Branch (27-3) against Watertown-Mayer (22-7) and No. 4 Holy Angels (27-3) against No. 5 Kasson-Mantorville (22-10).
The Panthers end the season with a 24-3 record. The 24 wins break the school record for most wins in a season set last season (19-6).
"It just wasn't our night," said Hanson. "This is a tough one to get over, but hopefully the girls will remember the great season we had. I'm so proud of these girls. We didn't want it to end this way, but we had an awesome season."