The first round of the regional tournament was a breeze for the Colfax volleyball team as they took a 3-0 win at home against Cumberland Oct. 22. The second round was a whole different story as the perennial powerhouse Grantsburg Pirates came to town and showed why they have been to the state tournament the past five seasons as they left with a three set win over the Dunn-St. Croix Conference champion Vikings.
The Vikings were the number two seed in the regional bracket while the Beavers came in as number seven. It didn’t take long for Colfax to show off their strengths as they scored the first three points of the game at the net, on a block by Chey Olson and back to back kills from Kori Buchanan. A Taylor Shipman kill, a Dannielle Dachel ace serve and a Buchanan slam put the score at 6-1 for the Vikings and after three aces from Buchanan and kills by Olson and Braanna Steen, the lead increased to 11-3. After Alexis Rudi added her own slam, Colfax led 22-10 and Buchanan served out the final points for the 25-11 win.
Colfax again jumped out to an early lead as they led set two 4-0 on a pair of Buchanan kills sandwiched around two by Olson. Dachel set her teammates up three straight times for winning kills then added a service ace for a 10-3 lead and after a couple of aces by Buchanan, they were up by 10 points at 14-4. They maintained that 10 point advantage and with the score at 18-8, they went on a five point run with Rudi serving and Buchanan smacking kills set up by Lakken Meredith for a 23-8 lead. The Vikings lost their focus momentarily as they failed to return five consecutive Beaver serves and allowed the score to get to 23-13 but a Beaver serving error and Buchanan’s slam put set two away at 25-13.
Cumberland tried their best to compete in the third set, tying the game at 6-6, but Colfax slowly began to pull away and built a 21-7 lead. Rudi had an 11 point run from the service line in that span, resulting in several errors on the Beavers part and after the score moved to 24-10, Shipman put down the final kill for match point.
“We maintained a very consistent and strong level of play throughout the match,” coach Pam Meredith said. “We had a tremendous offensive game with 44 kills and only five errors.”
Buchanan picked up 24 of those kills and Olson added 10 while Meredith and Dachel combined for 42 assists on the night. Emily Tuschl led the defensive effort with 12 digs and Buchanan added seven, and Rudi was a perfect 23 for 23 at the service line. Buchanan ended with four aces and Dachel three.
“If they were the number three seed, I’d hate to see what the number one seed is like,” was a comment heard by a Colfax fan after the Pirates win over the Vikings. Indeed, Webster was the number one seed and hosted these same Pirates in the regional final two days later. Grantsburg was a WIAA state qualifier five years running, losing the first match the past two years, finishing as the runner up in 2008 and 2010 and winning it all in 2009. They ended up beating Webster in five sets to win the regional title.
The Vikings had plenty of chances to put points across but the Pirate players appeared to have radar built in them as they managed to get a hand on the ball just about every time the Vikings tried to score, whether it was on a kill attempt or a tip try. The first set was tied five times before the Pirates opened up a 17-13 lead, then Colfax clawed their way back into it on kills from Buchanan and Olson with a tip from Dachel combined with several Grantsburg errors for a 22-22 tie. They went down by two at 24-22 but fought off the set point with an Emily Halpin kill and a strong serve form Buchanan for a 24-24 tie but a passing error on their part and a two handed push shot by a Pirate player gave Grantsburg the first set 26-24.
Colfax held a 4-1 lead in set number two on Buchanan’s kill and tip, Shipman’s push shot and Olson’s kill from the back row, and increased their lead to four at 6-2 on Buchanan’s ace but several of their shots were off the mark and the score was knotted at 7-7. After a Pirate slam to the middle of the court, Steen scored on an easy tip but things got out of hand quickly as the Vikings fell behind 18-10. Colfax never got closer than six points the rest of the way and ended up losing 25-17.
Colfax seemed to become revitalized in the third set when four kills from Buchanan, two form Olson, a block by Halpin (who missed the Cumberland game with a sprained ankle), a pair of ace serves by Dachel and one from Tuschl allowed them to take a 12-7 lead. The Vikings couldn’t hold the lead however as Grantsburg scored on three kills, blocked a Colfax kill attempt and forced a Colfax error to knot things up at 12-12. A Shipman tip made it 13-13, Buchanan’s tip and a combined block by Shipman and Olson gave the Vikings’ the lead again at 15-13 and the score was tied 16-16, 17-17, 18-18 and 19-19 but the Vikings lost control of the net as the Pirates put down three kills to go with an ace serve for a 24-19 lead. Halpin and Steen kept them in the game with back to back slams and with a Grantsburg miss, they were within two points down 24-22. Colfax flew around the court and came up with four digs to save points on kill attempts by the Pirates on the next play but they couldn’t stop the fifth one and they lost the set and match 25-22.
“As a team, it was our best serving effort of the season,” coach Meredith said. “We served 64 of 66 with three aces. But also as a team we had 19 hitting errors which can take you out of a match quickly. We attempted 96 kills and completed only 36 and it was that inability to put the ball away that hurt us, particularly in set one. We have been such an offensive factor all season but we weren’t able to generate any momentum against a scrappy Grantsburg team. It was a great season and I am very proud of the effort the girls put forth all season,” she added.
Buchanan, who had just been named the first ever Dunn-St. Croix Conference Player of the Year, finished with 12 kills and 19 digs. Steen added eight kills while Olson added five. Rudi came up with 12 digs and Dachel and Meredith combined for 30 assists.