When the Colfax volleyball team played host to the Spring Valley Cardinals in the final conference game of the season last Tuesday night, both teams along with plenty of fans for both sides, knew there would be a conference champion crowned before the evening was over.
The Vikings and Cardinals began the match with records of 7-1, tied for first place, and although there were plenty of heart stopping plays for both teams, a determined group of Vikings made sure the conference title was returned to Colfax after a three year hiatus with a three set win.
If the first play of the game was any indication of how things would turn out, it looked mighty good for Colfax as Kori Buchanan put down the first of her 15 kills of the game, then added her second one for a 2-1 lead. The Vikings were scoring points from all over the court with Emily Halpin at the net on a tip, Braanna Steen adding a pair of slams and Alexis Rudi a kill of her own along with a net serve by the Cardinals for an 8-3 lead. Rudi denied a Cardinal kill attempt at the net for an 11-5 lead and they continued to pull away, getting to 18-7 on a Taylor Shipman slam. A service ace from Dannielle Dachel, kills from Steen and Rudi and a Steen block gave the Vikings a 23-13 lead and a huge spike from Buchanan was followed by a Lakken Meredith ace for the 25-13 win.
The Cardinals appeared to regroup for game two as the score was knotted nine times at 1-1, 2-2, 7-7, 8-8, 9-9, 10-10, 11-11, 12-12, 13-13 and 14-14 with both teams playing aggressive at the net and trading kill shots. Colfax finally went on a short run with Buchanan serving up an ace, Halpin putting down a slam in the middle and Rudi connecting for a kill from the left side for a 17-14 lead. The teams traded serving errors and a Cardinal kill made it 18-16, but Chey Olson slammed a point down the middle and with Meredith at the service line, Rudi scored on a big smack and Meredith, with her serve barely skimming the net, came up with two aces for a 22-16 lead. Spring Valley got as close as four points but shots from Buchanan and Shipman moved the game to set point and Shipman’s two handed push shot gave Colfax set two at 25-18.
Set three was every bit as exciting with Spring Valley taking a 7-4 lead before Buchanan broke their run with a kill. They increased their lead to four at 11-7 on a kill by freshman Ally Lee and a service ace from sophomore Rebecca Fesenmaier before the Vikings blocked a shot at the net, Buchanan scored on a slam after a long rally, Shipman scored on a tip and Olson killed the ball for an 11-11 tie. They fell behind again, 13-11 but Olson and Buchanan came up big with net points and the game was tied at 13-13, and again at 14-14, 15-15 and 16-16 but the Vikings went on a five point run at that point on a Buchanan kill, a Dachel ace and three serving errors by the Cardinals. Steen came up with two straight kills and with the score at 23-18 in the Vikings favor, Katie Christoffel came off the bench for the first time all evening and cool as a cucumber, sent over a pair of serves that were un-returnable to give Colfax the match and the conference title.
“We played one of our best overall matches this season,” an elated Colfax coach Pam Meredith said after winning her third conference title in seven years leading the Vikings.”Everyone who played was productive, we made very few errors and had strong serving and great passing to our setters. Spring Valley struggled with their passing all night and that shows in their score, but our aggressive play had a big part in that. We were focused and came ready to play.”
As a team, the Vikings finished with 43 kills and only seven errors for a phenomenal .486 attack percentage according to Meredith. Buchanan led the attack with 15 kills followed by Shipman and Rudi with seven each, Olson with six, Steen added five and Halpin three. Meredith and Dachel combined for 32 assists.
Colfax received the number two seed in the WIAA regional tournament and will host Cumberland Tuesday, Oct. 22. If they should win, they will host the winner of Grantsburg-St. Croix Falls Thursday night.
Note: The head coach for Spring Valley is Kelli Schegel (formerly Keehr), which should be a familiar last name to Colfax fans. Meredith was her coach at Spring Valley before taking over the Vikings team.
“It was exciting to see Kelli coaching this year and doing such a good job,” Meredith said.”I don’t think her team played their best against us but she will have some good teams in the future.”