Prep Volleyball: Crown the Cards
WILLMAR — Entering the season, the Willmar volleyball team had its eyes on a Central Lakes Conference title despite losing five seniors from its Section 8AAA runner-up squad one year before.
On Tuesday night, that goal became a reality.
"Finally," Willmar head coach Traci Grussing said with a laugh. "We finally did it."
The Cardinals downed St. Cloud Apollo in three straight sets—25-11, 25-15, 25-18—to earn the school's first CLC title since 2005.
"We graduated those five seniors who all played big roles from last year's team, but had a lot of girls who put in a lot of time and effort. We had someone to fill in at every spot this year."
One of the key returning pieces was Esther Grussing, who led the way once again for the Cardinals on Tuesday. The senior setter recorded 40 set assists and had a hand in 56 percent of Willmar's points on the night.
Caitlin Ogdahl had nine kills and 16 digs in an impressive all-around effort for the Cardinals. Abby Volk and Grace Marti were right behind Ogdahl with seven kills each.
The Cardinals were dominant in the match's first set, downing the Eagles 25-11.
Apollo exchanged blows with Willmar during the early going in the second set, but the Cardinals found its stride midway through the period en route to a 25-15 win.
Willmar took care of business in the third game, prompting a celebration in the Willmar High School gymnasium.
With one goal now achieved, the Cardinals will soon be looking to improve upon their second-place section finish in 2016.
Before postseason play begins next week, Willmar has one final tune-up in the Moorhead Invitational, where some tough challenges could await the Cardinals.
"There are some good teams there and that will be a test," Grussing said. "We'll be able to see where we're at. Now the focus has to shift a little bit."
Willmar 3, SC Apollo 0
Apollo (8-15) 11 15 18
Willmar (19-4) 25 25 25
St. Cloud Apollo
Stats not provided.
Serving (aces): Esther Grussing 2, Abby Stark 2, Caitlin Ogdahl 3 ... Set assists: Grussing 40 ... Hitting (kills): Grussing 2, Stark 1, Ogdahl 9, Emma Rosen 2, Sydney Olson 3, Carly Wedel 6, Hannah Kobienia 5, Abby Volk 7, Grace Marti 7 ... Blocking (aces): Grussing 2, Ogdahl 3, Wedel 1, Volk 1, Marti 5 ... Digs (5 or more): Grussing 5, Stark 9, Ogdahl 16, Rosen 7