By Tina Turn, coach
The Bearcats finished the regular season 17-9, which placed them at the four seed. That position secured KCC a home court match the first round of playoffs when they took on the Grygla-Goodridge Chargers, the five seed. The battle took place at the Kittson Central High School on Thursday, Oct. 27.
KCC came ready to play as they jumped to a solid start immediately. Aidra Johnson stepped to the service line as the third server of the night and rattled off 2 aces and 5 tough serves total to take a 10-2 lead. Outside hitter Berlyn Strege paced the offense in set one with 4 kills. Kaydence White served 2 aces and recorded 2 kills in the 25-14 win, which came off an Aidra Johnson ace.
The Bearcats started slower in set two and made some early errors. Morgan Turn went on a serving spree at point 7, and after that, KCC didn’t commit many errors at all. Annika Johnson subbed in and garnered an ace and a dig, while Strege added 2 aces herself, but it was Ella Olson at the net that hurt the Chargers the most as she powered down 7 of her 12 kills in set two to help her team to the 25-18 win. Johnson came up big defensively with 3 solo blocks.
Set three proved to be a barn burner that went to extra points. At the net, Strege led the way with 5 kills, followed closely by White and Olson with 4 apiece. Afton Lindgren and Johnson each added 2. In sets one and two combined, KCC only committed 15 errors, but they gave GG 20 points on errors in set three and nearly handed them the win, but down the stretch, the Bearcats made some big plays to stay alive. For the final point, Berlyn Strege swung and hit high hands on the GG blockers. A defender passed it into the net, where a GG player dug it out, but a communication error by the Chargers ended their season while the Bearcats went on to win a 30-28 battle.
It was important for the girls to play relaxed, and they did that right from the start. The team effort was fabulous, and they were working like a well-oiled machine. Serving proved to be dichotomous. KCC committed to serving aggressively and were rewarded with 13 aces for their efforts. On the flip side, they also recorded 13 serving errors. Overall, though, the rest of their made-serves worked to keep the Chargers out of system, which is key in any match.
In Section 8A playoffs, the play-in and quarterfinal matches are on back-to-back nights, so the girls will enjoy their victory for a few hours before they recover and focus in on playing the No. 1 seed, the Badger-Greenbush/Middle River Gators in Greenbush, Friday, Oct. 28.
After beating Grygla-Goodridge in the play-in match, the Bearcats traveled to Greenbush, home of the BGMR Gators, on Friday, Oct. 28, to play in the quarterfinal match against the No. 1 seeded team. The gym was packed, and it was standing room only for this playoff battle.
The Bearcats started out and played an entire strong first set. Nearly half of the night’s kills happened in set one. Middles Aidra Johnson and Kaydence White recorded 4 kills each, while Berlyn Strege and Morgan Turn both added 3 kills. Ella Olson chipped in 1 in the effort. Four out of the night’s 5 missed serves occurred in the opening set, which BGMR went on to win 25-22.
In set two, the Gators rushed to an early lead as they were on fire at the net. KCC was down 5-16, but after their second timeout, the Bearcats responded, and Berlyn Strege went on a 6-serve surge, followed by White with 4 tough serves. KCC gained momentum at this point, but they had too big of a hole to dig out of and lost 17-25.
Set three was a battle for both teams. KCC actually had a lead for most of the first half of the set, but the Gators took charge and stifled the Bearcat’s chances at stealing a set as the game ended in favor of BGMR 25-22. Olson came up big in the final set with 6 kills.
The Bearcats knew they had to serve aggressively and did a good job keeping the Gators out of system quite a bit. They served 92 percent and recorded 9 aces against a very solid Gator serve receive. In the first set, KCC earned 19 of our 22 points. Most sets are won if a team earns all but 3 of their double-digit points, but against this talented Gator team, there is little room for error. In the second set when the team was down 5-16, they didn’t give up. They showed a lot of heart and character, and they have a ton to be proud of.
This 2022 Bearcat varsity volleyball team ends their season with a 18-10 record.