For the third year in a row, Roseau was a major obstacle in Park Rapids’ bid to earn a trip to the state Class AA volleyball tournament.
For the second straight season, the Panthers overcame that obstacle.
Park Rapids earned a spot in the section finals for the third consecutive season with a 25-23, 25-18, 25-19 win over the Rams in the Section 8AA North title match at Fosston on Tuesday, Oct. 29. That win pits the Panthers against another section rival for the Section 8AA title. Park Rapids, the No. 1 seed in the North, will play Pequot Lakes, the No. 1 seed in the South, at Wadena on Saturday (Nov. 2) at 7 p.m. for a trip to state.
Park Rapids head coach Christine Sauer expected a close match against Roseau. The Rams defeated Park Rapids 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 25-21 for the section title in 2017 before the Panthers avenged that loss with a 25-16, 25-13, 25-13 victory over Roseau in last year’s section championship match to qualify for the state tournament for the first time. In the season opener, the Panthers prevailed 25-17, 20-25, 27-25, 25-16.
A rematch for a state berth wasn’t going to happen this year since Park Rapids was moved to the North half of the section. However, the Panthers played like a state berth was on the line by controlling the majority of the match to end Roseau’s season for the second year in a row.
Roseau, the No. 3 seed in the North, controlled most of Set 1 before the Panthers rallied. Rilee Michaelson had four kills, but the Rams jumped out to a 12-8 lead. Three more kills by Michaelson and a kill by Kamree Carlson kept Park Rapids within 17-15 before three straight service errors gave Roseau a 20-17 advantage. Katelyn Weaver served five straight points to give the Panthers a 23-20 edge before another kill by Michaelson closed out the opening set.
The defending section champs used service runs by Kendra Scholz and Katie Burlingame to control the next two sets.
Two kills by Scholz and a tip by Michaelson led the Panthers to a 3-3 tie in Set 2 before Scholz served six straight points to put Park Rapids in control. Michaelson had a kill during that run. Kills by Michaelson, Kayleah Breitweser, Scholz and Carlson extended the lead to 16-8. A kill by Carlson, two kills by Michaelson and a kill by Breitweser made it 20-15 before a tip by Carlson and a kill by Scholz ended that set.
A kill by Michaelson and an ace serve by Scholz helped Park Rapids forge a 4-4 tie in Set 3 before kills by Michaelson and Breitweser and three service points by Michaelson gave the Panthers an 8-4 edge. Two kills apiece by Carlson and Michaelson, a kill by Scholz and an ace serve by Weaver made it 17-13 before Roseau sliced the gap to 18-17. Burlingame followed a kill by Carlson with a 5-0 service run for a 24-17 advantage as the Panthers took control late to close out the match and advance.
Park Rapids and Pequot Lakes will renew their rivalry in the section tournament. These two teams will play in the section tournament for the fourth straight season. Pequot Lakes advanced by eliminating No. 7 Fergus Falls 25-20, 25-22, 25-17 in the South title match.
Pequot Lakes eliminated the Panthers 19-25, 25-20, 25-14, 25-23 in the South title match in 2016 while Park Rapids eliminated the Patriots 26-24, 25-19, 23-25, 25-18 in the South finals in 2017 and 25-16, 25-18, 25-17 in the South title match last season. The two teams split matches this season with Pequot Lakes prevailing 18-25, 25-16, 16-14 at the Class AA Showcase and the Panthers locking up the Mid-State Conference title with a 22-25, 25-20, 25-21, 25-19 victory.
The Panthers enter the section championship match with a 23-7 record while the Patriots are 26-5. Roseau closed the season with a 20-11 record while Fergus Falls ended at 11-20.