PREP STATE VOLLEYBALL: TMB takes third at state tournament

ST. PAUL? Tears of disappointment were replaced by a joyous sense of accomplishment for the Tracy-Milroy-Balaton Panthers as they rallied to win the Class A third-place match at the State Volleyball Tournament on Saturday at the Xcel Energy Center.

After falling to Caledonia in five sets on Friday, the Panthers regrouped mentally and brought their A-game on Saturday, defeating the Heritage Christian Academy Eagles 3-0 (25-19, 25-11, 26-24).

“We were a little mad that we didn’t make it to the championship, but third place is pretty good,” TMB senior libero Lexi Tauer said. “We needed to come back with energy and not be like, ‘Oh, we didn’t make it, so it doesn’t even matter anymore.’ It still matters.”

Tauer led the Panthers (30-8 overall) with 19 digs and a match-high five ace serves.

“We served really aggressive, which is a really big thing in the game of volleyball,” Tauer said. “You have to have ball control and serving is a big skill that you need to have.”

In the first set, the Panthers worked their way to a 10-7 lead on a Kaylee Kirk kill and a 15-9 advantage on a Kendra Ludeman kill, forcing an Eagle timeout. Both teams traded points until an ace block by Kirk and Evy Dolan put the score at 21-17 in TMB’s favor. The Panthers closed out the set 25-19 with a kill and an ace serve from Kirk, along with two kills from Sydney Lanoue.

“Beating them twice in the season, most teams probably would have overlooked them, but we knew that we couldn’t do that,” Lanoue said. “We knew that they were going to be aggressive and we had to keep the pressure on them, and that’s what we did.”

With Tauer behind the serving line in the second set, TMB took an 8-1 lead. Tauer had two ace serves in the stretch. After a timeout, Heritage Christian battled back, getting to within 9-5 with a right-side kill. A tip from Lanoue, followed by three straight Eagle errors, stretched the Panther lead to 13-5.

Another Heritage Christian hitting error gave TMB a 19-8 edge, forcing the Eagles to take their final timeout. With Tauer behind the serving line again, accompanied by a kill from Ludeman and four more Eagle errors, the Panthers won the set 25-11.

“I think overall for our team, the first touch was very important and to keep the pressure on them, just to keep them scrambling and keep them off their toes,” Ludeman said. “It puts a lot of pressure on them.”

The third set was as close as one could get as neither team could pull away by more than four points. Two straight kills from Ludeman, along with an ace serve from Lanoue, put the Panthers up 7-3. TMB still held the lead at 10-6, but Heritage Christian battled back to tie the set at 11 apiece.

The Eagles took the lead on a tip error, but the Panthers grabbed the lead back after an Eagle hitting error along with a kill from Lanoue. There would be five more ties before Heritage Christian would grab a two-point lead with a tip and a block, forcing a Panther timeout at 21-19.

During the timeout, it was discovered that the Eagles had been out of rotation, so a point was subtracted from their score, and as a result of the infraction, a point was added to TMB’s score, making it 20-20.

A right-side kill from Sidney Karbo and a Heritage Christian hitting error gave the Panthers a two-point edge, forcing the Eagles to take a timeout. Following a Heritage Christian kill, Dolan pounded down two straight kills to give TMB a 24-21 advantage.

“They had the momentum when they had that out of rotation, so that could have went either way,” TMB coach Katie Gervais said. “I’m just happy for the girls to take advantage of that.”

After its final timeout, Heritage Christian was able to knot the score at 24. The Eagles capitalized on a Panther passing error and collected points on a kill and an ace block in the stretch, forcing TMB to take its final timeout.

Out of the break, it was all Panthers as kills from Kirk and Lanoue closed out the set 26-24.

“I think they thought we were going to come in overconfident, but we weren’t,” coach Gervais said. “We were prepared. The girls knew what they could bring to the table.”

For most of the match, Gervais said she thought the Panthers kept their opponent out of system.

“We served aggressive,” coach Gervais said. “We passed serve well. They showed what they could do in the third set. They started hitting better. Give credit to the girls. They followed a game plan. They stuck to it. They did a nice job overall. It was a great team effort.”

TMB was solid in all areas of the game. The team outhit the Eagles .226 to .085, finishing with 40 kills compared to Heritage Christian’s 32. Lanoue led the Panthers with 14 kills, followed by Ludeman (10), Dolan (6), Gabbie Gervais (5) and Kirk (4).

Along with Tauer, Lanoue contributed 19 digs. Gervais added 11, followed by Kirk (9) and Karbo (5). TMB also had eight ace serves compared to the Eagles’ three. Gervais collected a match-high 32 set assists.

“I’m just happy they can end on a win,” coach Gervais said. “We came here the last two years and you know – we placed higher – but we were trying to figure out if we’d rather get second and end on a loss or get third and end on a win. It’s a good feeling just to end up on a win. They definitely deserve it. They proved that they can play with the best in the state (Friday) and throughout the year.”

After finishing second at state two years ago and fourth last year, Gervais said she was just happy this year’s team was able to obtain their goal.

“Our ultimate goal was to get to the state championship, but a strong second was just to get a medal around our necks,” she said. “So I’m happy for them.”

Along with fellow seniors Tauer, Gervais and Hannah Jensen, Ludeman said it felt extremely good to close out her career on a high note.

“It’s really awesome to end your senior season at the state tournament as well as with a win,” Ludeman said.

While the Panthers lose some quality players to graduation, the team will return four starters who no doubt would like to return to state for the fourth straight season.

“It’s hard to think about next year right now, but I’m hoping that we have some girls who are willing to step up so we can hopefully get back here, or at least know we played our best game at the end of the season,” Lanoue said.

TMB 3, Heritage Christian 0

Heritage Christian 19 11 24

TMB 25 25 26

TMB Individual Statistics

Ace Serves: Lexi Tauer 5, Sydney Lanoue 2, Kaylee Kirk 1.

Kills: Lanoue 14, Kendra Ludeman 10, Evy Dolan 6, Gabbie Gervais 5, Kirk 4, Sidney Karbo 1.

Digs: Tauer 19, Lanoue 19, Gervais 11, Kirk 9, Karbo 5.

Blocks (solo-assisted): Dolan 1-1, Kirk 0-1, Ludeman 0-1, Lanoue 0-1.

Set Assists: Gervais 32.