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Colfax survives five set thriller over Elk Mound to earn second straight conference championship

ELK MOUND — Whoever does the scheduling for the Dunn-St. Croix volleyball matches must have had  a premonition last year when they pitted the Colfax and Elk Mound teams against each other in the final contest of the conference season.

When the Vikings entered the packed Elk Mound gym Oct. 14, both teams were undefeated at 8-0 and both teams had lost only one set in conference play. The Mounders’ roster included 10 seniors while the Vikings had five, and like last year when Colfax defeated Spring Valley in three sets in the final match to win the conference title, it again came down to the last night. This time Colfax had to come from behind after losing the first two sets to the Mounders before winning the next three to give them  their second straight Dunn-St. Croix Conference title.

The Mounders appeared more than ready to take that title away as they won the battle in the first set 25-21. The set was tied 11 times with neither team having more than a two point advantage until Hannah Flatness put down a kill for the Mounders to put her team up 17-14. But Kori Buchanan responded for the Vikings with her own slam, Marianne Scharlau blocked a Mounder shot and a misplay at the net by the Mounders knotted things at 17-17. Errors by both team moved it to 18-18 before Elk Mound pulled ahead 21-18 in part by an Elly Friberg slam. Buchanan responded again with her own but a Friberg tip and a Morgan Polden kill put the Mounders at set point and a combined tip gave them the winning point.

With just about every single shot contested by both defenses, set number two played out the same way. After Colfax took a 4-0 lead on two Chey Olson kills and one by Buchanan and a Mounder error, the Mounders knotted thing up at 8-8 when Friberg and Elizabeth Schreiber put up a solid block on Buchanan. The score was tied at 9-9, 10-10, 12-12 and 17-17 before Olson aced a serve for a one point lead. Polden served up a point to knot it again and the teams continued to trade points from the net, resulting in tie scores of 20-20, 21-21, 22-22, 23-23 and with Serena Wieser serving for the Mounders, Schreiber and Polden put down the 24th and 25th point for the second set win.

Things were looking pretty good for the Mounders and pretty dismal for the Vikings when Elk Mound jumped out to a 7-1 lead in the third set. Dayna Kotecki had a service ace and a tip point in the run before Lakken Meredith broke the string with her own tip. But kills from Polden and Flatness gave the Mounders a 9-2 lead, and they maintained a seven point lead at 10-3 and 11-4. But this was an awfully determined group of Vikings and they were not about to go down in three sets. Playing one point at a time, they scored seven straight, in part on a Meredith set behind her back and over the net, an ace serve by Katie Christoffel and a Scharlau block combined with some mis-placed Mounder shots for an 11-11 score. Buchanan added a kill but the Mounders responded with their own for a 12-12 tie. Colfax then began to pull away and led 22-16 on a Scharlau block, but after a Friberg kill the Mounders were back within three points down 23-20. A cross court kill by Buchanan and a final slam from Olson down a wide open middle kept the Vikings’ hopes alive for another set.

Elk Mound started to regroup while the Vikings tried to keep their momentum going, which led to another back-and-forth fourth set. Players from both teams were flying around the court to save every point, resulting in   11 tie scores throughout the set. At 10-10, two Mounders ended up in the stands for consecutive digs which led to Friberg scoring on a kill, and with a Colfax error, they were up by two. But a Mounder error and an ace serve by Courtney Ottinger brought the score to 11-11. Neither team led by more than two points in the next few minutes but at 17-17, Buchanan went to work. With Meredith setting her up from across the court, Buchanan put down four kills with Christoffel serving an ace in between for a 22-17 lead. Slams from Schreiber and Friberg and a Colfax serving error closed the gap to 22-20 but a Mounder kill attempt went into the net, Buchanan put down a kill for a 24-21 lead and Buchanan, now at the serving line, smacked a serve that hit the top of the net and fell over, just out of the reach of any Mounder to retrieve for the 25-21 win.

Although they did their best to keep themselves in the match, the expression “taking the wind out of their sails” applied to the Mounders at this point. Colfax took a 6-1 lead in the fifth set before Elk Mound battled back to 7-5 but they never got closer to a 4 point deficit the rest of the way. Colfax freshman Makayla Mattson came up with one of her biggest kills of the season, deep in the Mounders court for a 11-6 lead, Dannielle Dachel served up a point, Buchanan and Scharlau stuffed a Mounder kill attempt and two final errors by the Mounders allowed Colfax to finish off the match.

“I told our girls both of the first two games were so close they could have gone either way,” Colfax coach Pam Meredith said. “We expected this to be a tough match and we did not want to lose in three sets. I told them we worked too hard to let that happen  so we just had to work on the next set. We changed our blocking scheme a bit to try and stop their big hitters and that made a difference. We were aware Elk Mound had a lot of weapons but we had been down before in some tournament games and our girls knew we were never out of it. Even in that third set when we were behind we kept our focus and just kept playing hard. Every player on the court for us stepped up and made big plays when we needed them. It was a great match played by both teams and everyone gave their best effort” she added.

As a team, the Mounders finished with 134 digs to save points with Kotecki, Polden, Rachel Caron and Wieser combining for 91 of them. They served 94%, missing just five of 98 attempts and they scored points on 54 kills. Friberg and Schreiber had 14 kills each, Flatness added 12 and Polden six. Kotecki set her teammates up 32 times while Leia Kufahl came up with 13 assists.

Colfax finished with 49 kills, 22 from Buchanan and 16 by Olson. Christoffel served up four aces on her jump serve and the team was 92% from the line, missing eight serves on 107 attempts. Olson and Scharlau both had four solo blocks and with 104 team digs, Olson led the way with 29 to go with 14 from Christoffel, 13 each from Meredith and Buchanan and 12 by Bryana Buchanan.

Colfax will take a number one seed into the regional tournament and will host Glenwood City Tuesday, Oct. 21. After playing in the Mondovi tournament Oct. 18, Elk Mound will begin regional play as the number three seed and will host Osseo-Fairchild, also on Oct. 21.