The St. Michael-Albertville varsity volleyball team made a huge comeback last night in the section 5AAA semi-finals against Champlin Park, a former state champion team. STMA lost their first two sets, then came back to win the last three, clinching the victory and moving on to the section finals on Thursday evening against Wayzata.
“The team showed great resiliency and determination to win tonight,” Activities Director Keith Cornell said after the game.
Varsity head coach, Tammy Cornillez, said the team has had a great season, with a record of 22-6 in season play and a second place finish in the Lake conference after Wayzata.
“I am very happy with the progress and growth that the team has made over the course of the season,” Cornillez said. “We have definitely taken our losses seriously this season as what they truly are, learning experiences.”
Cornillaz said last night’s game began with nerves, misses serves and struggling to serve receive rather than focusing on what they knew how to do. However, the girls rallied, connected with one another and put an emphasis on defense and making defensive plays. She said they gained control of the match once they were able to pick up on what was coming from the other side of the net.
“Ultimately, I felt like my team just endured well and were resilient,” she said.
Players with notable performances last night include Captain Mikala Henderson with 20 kills, Emma VanHeel with 14 kills and the team’s highest hitting effectiveness, Captain Sam Palmer with four ace serves, and Sophie Fritz and Cyn Henderson with 64 and 60 assists, respectively. Megan Kruschke, Henderson and Palmer led the team in digs.
“The entire team displayed tremendous heart,” she said. “I am blessed to coach each and every one of them because they are great, strong women.”
“We have play-makers, gamers, blockers, diggers, and hitters on this team, but what really makes this team great is my bench,” she added. “They are the underdogs and behind-the-scene warriors that challenge our starters to be better, to be resilient, and to play with a greater amount of heart.”
Tomorrow’s Section 5AAA Championship begins at 7 p.m. at Osseo High School. The winner will earn a spot at the Minnesota State Volleyball Tournament, slated to begin Nov. 7 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.