BY ROB LAPLANTE
The St. Michael-Albertville volleyball team improved its conference record to 8-1 with a convincing 25-11, 25-23, 25-18 win last Thursday over Cambridge-Isanti. The victory allowed the Knights a shot at a share of the Mississippi 8 title.
“Cambridge is a feisty group,” said head coach Ryan Dehnel. “They took Buffalo to five sets the other night and our kids did a great job at the beginning of the match executing and taking care of the ball on defense. That set a good tone.”
Senior captain Candice Yager had 14 digs, 10 service returns and three aces. Yager has been a leader all season defensively for the Knights. She ranks among the metro leaders in digs and service returns. She said her first year as libero has been a nice transition, as she prepares herself for Division-I volleyball playing next year at the University of North Dakota.
“I’m really excited to go to college and take it up a level,” Yager said. “I’m not sure if I’m going to be a defensive specialist or libero. I’ll just do my best and see where they play me once I get there.”
The Knights played Buffalo Tuesday night with a shot at a share of the M-8 title. The Knights lone conference loss came to Buffalo at home on Sept. 20.
“We had been preparing in practice for Buffalo since last week,” said senior captain Candice Yager. “We lost to them at home and now we want to try and get them in their house.”
A week after finishing fifth at the STMA Invite, the Knights continued their late season surge with a fourth-place finish at Saturday’s Eastview Tournament.
The Knights posted a 2-3 record at the tournament, but posted key wins early to get to the third-place game.
The weekend began Friday with a 26-24, 25-9 victory over Prior Lake. Later that day, they fell in two sets 26-24, 25-19 to Class 3A’s No. 9-ranked team, Chaska.
Saturday tipped off with a key 2-1 victory over Stewartville. The Knights dropped the first set 25-22, but rebounded to take the final two sets 27-25, 15-8 against the No. 2 ranked team in Class 2A.
The victory over Stewartville set up a semifinal clash with Blaine, the No. 2 ranked team in Class 3A. The Bengals (24-1 overall) proved its high ranking, winning 25-16, 25-17 and eventually won the tournament with a victory over Chaska.
“The Stewartville match took a little too much out of us physically and mentally to be ready to battle Blaine,” Dehnel said. “But we did some good things against Blaine that we can build on.”
The Knights finished the weekend with a 27-25, 25-20 loss in the third-place contest to defending Class 3A champion and No. 3 ranked Eden Prairie.
“The girls were excited about the top-four finish,” Dehnel said. “Candice played great all weekend. Malissa LaClaire did a good job with our offense and Courtney Wooters had a breakout offensive performance on Friday night and made some key swings for us on Saturday as well.”
The Knights close out the regular season Thursday at home against the same Bengals. The Section 5AAA playoffs begin on Tuesday.