It’s A Gopher Conference State Volleyball Semifinal
The Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Buccaneers and Medford TIgers play each other in the MSHSL Class A State Volleyball Tournament Semifinals Friday. The Buccaneers the #2 seed and #2 ranked team. The Tigers rated #7 in the final Minnesota Volleyball Coaches poll and #3 seed in the State Tournament.
It took 62 minutes for Waterville-Elysian-Morristown to win, 92 minutes for Medford to win their first round matches Thursday. Both achieved sweeps. The Tigers enter the match with a 25-8 record. Three of their defeats were against the Bucs. They lost in the Cannon Falls Tournament 25-17, 25-21. Fell to WEM in the Volleyball Showcase 2-1, winning first set 25-15 before falling 25-16, 25-15 in the next two sets.
The Gopher Conference match in Medford was won handily by the Bucs 25-20, 25-13, 25-11. I broadcast that match. You know the old saying, "It's hard to beat a good team three times." What about four?
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown is 33-2. Their only losses in the season opener at home against they top ranked Kenyon-Wanamingo and against Mayer Lutheran in the Class A Volleyball Showcase championship.
Medford will have no trouble getting up for WEM but how do you tell a Buccaneer team that's won 7 of 8 sets this season against their Gopher Conference foes that the Tigers have the ability to beat them?
I know Waterville-Elysian-Morristown Head Coach Crystal Lamont and her staff won't take the Tigers for granted. All it takes is one bad day or one good day depending on your perspective.
Medford was more efficient hitting in their win over Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa hitting at a .295 efficiency. WEM understandably had trouble getting into any offensive rhythm in their second set against a Henning team that frankly about six teams from Sections 1 and 2 in Class A would defeat. The Bucs hitting percentage for the match was .227 according to their statistics.
The X factor for the Tigers might be senior 5'10 outside hitter Alyvia Johnson on offense. My guess is the Buccaneers will try to get a double block on efficient junior middle hitter 6'0 Kinsey Cronin at the net. Senior outside hitter 5'9 Emma Kniefel has been getting more efficient with her attacks from the back row which could be another weapon for the Tigers.
Both setters are not flashy but very effective. Junior Ellie Ready for the Bucs had 4 ace serves, 2 kills Thursday. Senior Morgan Langeslag assisted in the attack with 5 kills and a .444 hitting percentage. She also had 14 digs.
I saw Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in their season opening loss to then top ranked Kenyon-Wanamingo. Since then they have improved a lot. Particularly in the passing area where they are so fun to watch. Their three main hitters juniors Toryn Richards, Kylie Pittman and senior Delaney Donahue can repeatedly pick up serves at the attack line and get the Bucs into their offense quicker.
WEM is so hard to get out of system because of those hitters passing prowess. Plus they can play as I call it in "scramble mode" well. Don't be surprised if you see Medford throw some short serves at them because of that ability.
Meanwhile the Buccaneers I'm sure don't feel they have to make any changes because they have won 7 of 8 sets against Medford this season. They are always aggressive servers and if I were a betting man I would say they will try to avoid serving to Medford's libero senior Kiley Nihart.
Medford survived unquestionably the toughest section in the state en route to the Xcel Energy Center with five set matches against Kenyon-Wanamingo and Mabel-Canton. It doesn't get much tougher than that. One of the reasons is the improvement of senior back row player 5'7 Izzy Reuvers. Teams don't want to serve to Nihart and Reuvers has seen more balls coming her way. Reuvers improvement in the passing department is a key reason why Medford was successful in Section One.
Waterville-Elysian-Morristown faced the ultimate challenge in the finals of the Section 2A Tournament last Saturday in Mankato. Down 13-10 in the fifth set to the top ranked Mayer Lutheran Crusaders they reeled off 5 straight points to secure a trip to the State Tournament. That took some mental toughness.
Both teams are now battle tested and ready to rock and roll Friday. It's going to be a lot of fun seeing the Gopher Conference teams go toe to toe in the State Tournament. Fasten your seat belts because both teams will play their hearts out.
Usually the team with the fewest mistakes wins.
The match will be on KDHL Radio, 920 AM and the FREE KDHL app worldwide. If we are on time coverage will begin 2:35 p.m.