PREP STATE VOLLEYBALL: Caledonia spoils state title hopes for Panthers

ST. PAUL Tracy-Milroy-Balaton coach Katie Gervais used only a few words to accurately sum up the hard-fought, high-caliber battle between the second-seeded Panthers and third-seeded Caledonia in the Class A State Volleyball semifinal Friday at the Xcel Energy Center.

“I definitely think we didn’t lose the match, I think they won the match,” she said. “There’s a big difference. Both teams battled and we’re extremely proud of our girls.”

TMB won the first and third sets (25-20, 25-19), and after the Warriors took the second and fourth sets (25-19, 25-21), the match went into a deciding fifth set, marking only the third time the Panthers have done so all season.

TMB jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the fifth set after a pair of kills from Sydney Lanoue followed by one from Kendra Ludeman. But Caledonia was not about to give up and the team tied up the set at 5-all.

The Warriors capitalized on a pair of TMB errors and after trailing 8-5, the Panthers were forced to take a timeout. After a Caledonia hitting error and an Evy Dolan kill, the Warriors took their own timeout, leading 8-7.

“I thought both teams were so aggressive,” Gervais said. “They were very confident. Both teams were good. They just didn’t back down. That’s the kind of game you want. And that’s what we talk about – we don’t want to give them more than two or three points in a run. I think that’s the measure of quality teams. It was just a good battle back and forth.”

The set continued to rise in intensity as both teams inched their way through, point by point. A kill gave the Warriors a 14-13 edge, forcing TMB to take its final timeout. Then, a Caledonia hitting error knotted the score at 14-apiece. It wasn’t meant to be for the Panthers, however, as a Warrior kill and a Panther hitting error allowed Caledonia to win the match 16-14.

“I think we struggled to handle the pressure when things got tough,” TMB junior Kaylee Kirk said. “We hesitated a lot. When we could have gone 100 percent, we just hesitated.”

Gervais agreed, noting that the match could have went either direction.

“When we served aggressive and we attacked hard, I thought defensively, they struggled a little big passing the ball,” she said. “And that’s our strong point for the most part. Blocking and hitting are their strong points, so when we’re giving them free balls or not being aggressive, that’s playing into their strong points.”

Caledonia coach Scott Koepke thought TMB had an impressive attack.

“Some of the swings we had to deal with tonight were pretty impressive,” he said. “You have to have a first line of defense up there. In matches like this, if you can’t put up a first line of defense, your second line of defense is often very ineffective. We were really ready at the end. We were ready to jump at the right angle. They were getting after it. It was impressive.”

The Warriors also collected 102 digs – including six players with double digits – compared to the Panthers’ 91. Sidney Karbo led TMB with 30 digs, followed by Lanoue (17), Lexi Tauer (14), Gabbie Gervais (13) and Kirk (11). Lanoue led all hitters with 21 kills. The Panthers also got 10 kills from Ludeman and seven from Dolan.

Gervais tallied 39 set assists. The senior setter for TMB had her work cut out for her as the team’s offensive coordinator against the strong blocking team.

“As a setter, you kind of look at how our hitters match up against their blockers, and Syd had a great game hitting, and she pulled a lot of double blocks,” she said. “So when I see a block go with Syd, I try to send it the other direction so it allows our other hitters to have a single block. But there’s just a lot of stuff to look for: defense on the other side, blockers and who’s hitting well on our team and where they’re hitting well from.”

TMB came away with 12 ace serves compared to its opponent’s 11. Gervais led with four. Ludeman, Kirk, Karbo and Tauer each had two ace serves.

The Warriors (30-5) advance to the championship match against Mayer-Lutheran (28-6). The Panthers (29-8) will meet up with Heritage Christian Academy (26-11) for the third-place place.

“We’ve got to have a short memory,” Lanoue said. “The third-place game is (today) so we have to come out as strong as we can and not keep reliving things that just happened (Friday).”

TMB took second at state in 2014. The Panthers finished fourth last year, so the team will be looking to close out the season with a final win. The third-place match begins at 11 a.m. today.

TMB 25 19 25 21 14

Caledonia 20 25 19 25 16

TMB Individual Statistics

Ace Serves: Gabbie Gervais 4, Kendra Ludeman 2, Kaylee Kirk 2, Sidney Karbo 2, Lexi Tauer 2.

Kills: Sydney Lanoue 21, Ludeman 10, Evy Dolan 7, Karbo 4, Kirk 2, Tauer 1.

Digs: Karbo 30, Lanoue 17, Tauer 14, Gervais 13, Kirk 11.

Blocks (solo-assist): Evy 1-2, Lanoue 1-1, Karbo 0-1.

Set Assists: Gervais 39.