By Cara L. Dempski
MONDOVI — There was something fitting about the Lady Vikings taking five sets to win their fifth consecutive Dunn-St. Croix volleyball championship last Tuesday evening.
Colfax took an October 10 road trip to fellow unbeaten Mondovi, whom shared the title with the Lady Vikings last season, to settle the matter of this year’s Dunn-St. Croix conference championship, and looked well on its way to winning the title outright after claiming victories in the first two sets, 25-17 and 25-12.
But that was before Mondovi found firm footing and ways to keep the Lady Vikings scrambling to cover every inch of the court. The Buffs forced Colfax to give up the next two sets 25-22 and 25-21 to force a fifth and deceding game.
“I wasn’t sure we were going to win,” Meredith said immediately after the match.
She had every right to be worried, since the Buffaloes handled the Vikings so easily in the third and fourth sets, and seemed to carry that momentum through the end of the fourth set.
But the fifth set belonged solely to Colfax, who copped their fifth straight D-SC title and seventh in ninth years with a 15-8 set win for the 3-2 match victory.
Colfax came into the contest, its final conference match of the 2017 season, with an unblemished 7-0 mark in D-SC action while Mondovi was just a half match back at 6-0.
The Vikings seemed in full control of the first set, leading 11-6 when Mondovi started a rally to pull the score up to 14-13. Colfax managed to push the lead out to 18-13 before jumping out to a 21-15 lead and putting away the match 25-17 on a call of four hits on the Buffaloes’ side of the net.
Meredith’s Viking squad played with similar ease in the second set, seemingly relying on instinct to place the ball out of reach for the Buffs. Mondovi started to rally a bit midway through the set when Colfax led 15-8, causing at least one fan to offer constructive criticism.
“It doesn’t have to be hard, it just has to be in,” Rich Meredith said as he watched the Vikings pick up a few hitting errors.
The Lady Vikings appeared to have heeded his advice, settling back in and getting some powerful – but still inbounds – hits from sophomores Kameri Meredith and Samantha Pretasky. Colfax rounded it out its second-set win 25-12.
The tide shifted slightly in Mondovi’s favor in the opening moments of the third set, when Mondovi nabbed its first match lead 8-7. The Lady Buffaloes kept finding new places to drill in the ball, which kept the Vikings on their toes and needing to cover every inch of the court at once.
Every time the Vikings would rally, the Buffaloes would return the favor by extending their lead once more to take their first set win of the match 25-22.
The Mondovi girls would do more of the same in the fourth, seizing the lead immediately and never relinquishing it despite Colfax’s repeated attempts to close the gap and earn the match win. The Vikings were building momentum, though, and fought to a 25-21 finish to set both teams up for a fifth set to decide the winner.
Colfax opened the final set by blasting out to a four-point lead before Mondovi could apparently wrap its head around the momentum shift. The Lady Vikings built their lead up to 8-3 when first Samantha Pretasky drove in a hard attack, and then Jozie Buchanan did the same to give the Vikings a 10-3 lead.
To give the Buffaloes credit, they started to fight back, pulling back to within five of Colfax to trail 11-6 when coach Meredith called a time-out to discuss how best the Vikings could put Mondovi away.
Whatever she told them, it worked, as the Colfax squad allowed Mondovi only one more point as they cruised to a 15-7 set win for the match.
Pretasky used her hard, fast swing to rain 17 kills on the Buffaloes, while Rachel Scharlau and Kameri Meredith tied with eight kills each. Makayla Mattson recorded four kills, Savannah Henricks is credited with three, and Buchanan logged one.
Buchanan’s hard, net-skimming serves logged her four aces for the night, with Meredith taking credit for three aces. Scharlau and Alyssa Dachel each recorded a pair of aces, and Henricks chalked up one.
Sam Pretasky proved a veritable wall against the Buffaloes, logging five solo blocks and a single block assist. Scharlau stepped up her blocking game with four solo, and Henricks logged a pair of solo blocks and an assist. Mattson and Meredith each recorded a solo block and a block assist in the match.
Meredith led the team with 25 digs, but junior Alyssa Dachel was not far behind her with 22. Buchanan took credit for another 12 digs, Scharlau logged nine, Henricks eight, Pretasky seven, Kali Risler took five, and Mattson is credited with three.
Buchanan accounted for 32 of the Vikings’ 41 total assists, Meredith provided nine, and Scharlau completed the total with one.
With the Dunn-St. Croix season over, Colfax’s focus turned to an October 14 tournament at Altoona before they hit the court for a first-round WIAA Division 3 regional quarterfinal match at home against Boyceville last evening, October 17.
The winner of the match between the third-seeded Vikings and 14th-seeded Bulldogs will play the winner of the match between sixth-seed Cameron and number 17, Ladysmith, Thursday, October 19. The regional championship is set for Saturday, October 21.