BY DAVE PEDERSEN
It was all a setup for Delano to defeat some of the top volleyball teams in the state when capturing the 31-team St. Michael-Albertville Invitational Saturday.
The play on words refers to the standout play of junior setter Kristin Kreklow, who was named Minnesota volleyball player of the week by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.
Not only did Delano defeat Dassel-Cokato and Orono earlier last week to claim at least a tie for the Wright County Conference title, but won all five matches at the STMA tourney to improve to 24-3 overall and earn a state ranking of No. 8 in Class 3A.
If the Tigers defeated Hutchinson Tuesday, after this issue went to press, Delano would earn the league crown outright, but is assured of at least a tie. If Delano receives a top four seed in the section tournament, the team would get a bye in the first round on Wednesday, Oct. 23 and open play at home, 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 25.
The section is considered the toughest in the state with the likes of No. 1 ranked Chaska. Delano lost to Buffalo earlier in the year, but avenged the loss at STMA. Chanhassen beat Delano in the title game of its own tourney and Buffalo beat Chanhassen.
At the STMA event, Delano gained much respect and confidence by defeating the likes of Champlin Park, Buffalo and Hopkins, all state-ranked teams. The Tigers also won over Nevis and Minneapolis Southwest.
Senior Shelby Seurer was named to the All-Tournament team, yet coach Rebecca Rue called it a true team effort. The great passing enabled Kreklow to set up a variety of standout hitters.
“Everybody stepped up their level of play, which is what you want this time of year,” adds Rue. “We keep getting better and are peaking at the right time.”
In the title match against Hopkins, Kreklow had 34 set assists and four ace serves. In the tourney she contributed 139 set assists.
Seurer, who recently cleared the 1,000 career mark in kills, was just 32 kills away from the school record. She slammed down 63 kills in the five tourney matches.
Senior Elle Heinonen was only 22 digs away from 1,000 in her career as the Libero, or defensive specialist. For the week she had 77 digs.
Rue adds how the serve receive by ninth-grader Tori Hanson was tremendous at the tourney. Junior Alex Wittinger was second in tourney kills for the Tigers with 49, while junior Bria Barfnecht had 40 and Hanson 29.
“You could tell these games meant a lot to the whole team as players took their roles with a lot of pride,” said Rue. “Players were so ecstatic when they beat Buffalo that it transferred into the title game. Players were second at both the Farmington and Chanhassen tournaments and wanted to prove we can win tournament.”
Rue said it all starts with the passing as being critical to success. The coach says Kreklow has a special connection with her hitters and has amazing court sense.
“After the title match told the girls I have never seen them work so much as a unit,” adds Rue. “We hope this title is a primer going into the section tournament. This allows our players to realize they can play with anyone if they play our game, which is passing and serving tough.”