By Cara L. Dempski
CAMERON — Tournament season at any level of any sport can be a tough time.
While the advent of playoffs for many prep teams in Wisconsin means a clean slate, there is also the knowledge that any number of factors from a squad not playing its best, to being outmatched, to suffering from shoddy officiating can eliminate good teams in the post season.
[emember_protected] The Colfax Vikings’ volleyball team found that out the hard way October 26 when it faced number-one seed Grantsburg at Cameron high school for a WIAA Division 3 sectional semi-final match. The Pirates made seemingly short work of the Colfax ladies for a 3-0 win in last Thursday evening’s contest.
Vikings’ coach Pam Meredith said her team was looking good going into the match, but things kind of went south from there.
The Pirates, champions of the Lakeland West and sporting a 23-10 record coming into the sectional tournament, took an early lead in the first set and used it to their advantage, nabbing 25-16 wins in the first and second sets before finishing off the sweep of the Viking with a 25-12 victory in the third and final set.
“They’re (Grantsburg) a strong team, a perennial powerhouse, we know that,” Meredith said immediately after the match. “Whether we were tight, I don’t know. They served tough. We couldn’t put a pass inside the line the whole first set, everything we did was out of system. I thought we did okay with that, but I gotta believe it was nerves eventually.”
The Colfax coach said it was not that her team was not trying, but instead what the players were doing wasn’t working. The Grantsburg girls seemed to have a defensive response to each attack the Vikings mounted, something Meredith noted was very much like the match the Vikings played at home against Cameron the week before.
And, for anyone watching in person or at home via the online live-stream, the officiating left a lot of Colfax’s faithful unhappy by the end of the match.
As an example of what the Colfax girls were up against: there were two separate occasions in the second set where Grantsburg allegedly touched the ball four times before sending it back over the net to the Vikings’ side of the court.
According to those in the stands, the first touch in both instances was not a block, but the Pirates were still awarded the point for the rally-ending kill each time.
Then there was the moment where the ball clearly landed well inside the Grantsburg line, but was ruled out of bounds and credited as a Colfax hitting error, much to the loud disapproval of the crowd wearing red.
One fan, who declined identification, said he started counting errors made by the officials midway through the first set, and estimated the crew gave away nearly 19 points that might have gone to Colfax.
Of course, it is impossible to know if a different set of officials would have rendered a different outcome for Colfax, but it did visibly frustrate the players at times. So much so, that Meredith gave the team a talking to just before everyone stepped onto the court for the third set.
“We talked about just going out there and having fun. This whole season, we’ve had a great season, and we don’t want to come in here and everybody’s getting frustrated and angry and not communicating,” she explained. “It’s not worth getting here if you can’t remember this night and have fun.”
She said the talk may have caused the Vikings to relax a little, giving them a 12-8 lead before the Pirates started to chip away at the point deficit and then roared past the Colfax team for the lead.
Samantha Pretasky and Kameri Meredith led the offensive attack against Grantsburg with seven kills each, Makayla Mattson logged three, and Rachel Scharlau and Jozie Buchanan each had two. Kameri Meredith held up the defense with 10 digs, while Buchanan added another eight, and Alyssa Dachel, Savannah Henricks and Mattson recorded five apiece.
Henricks was the only Viking to land an ace, and Buchanan assisted on 16 scoring attacks.
Meredith said 2017 has been a fantastic season, and was pleased to have one last year with seniors Makayla Mattson and Ryanna Martinson.
“They’re great kids, and they’ve been with this program the last four years. I can’t say enough about them,” she said.
The Viking head coach is also excited about the 2018 season, because she knows it will take just a little bit of work to get Colfax on the same level as Grantsburg. She noted the Vikings compete well in conference play, but she knows the team needs to be able to compete once it steps outside its comfort zone and into tournament play.
“As great a season as we had, we get to sectionals and play a team like Grantsburg, and we learn we have some work to do. If we want to be able to compete in regionals and sectionals, we have to come in a bit more ready. That’s just putting time in during the summer and being confident,” Meredith finished.
The Vikings finished 2017 with an overall record of 22-15. They were 8-0 in the Dunn-St. Croix which earned the Vikings a fifth straight conference championship. The Lady Vikings then added a regional championship to this year’s resume after beating Webster at home October 21. [/emember_protected]