This could have been a challenging season for the Pequot Lakes Patriots varsity volleyball team after losing seven players to graduation from a squad that won 24 games last fall. Then, over the summer, head coach Kate Dale’s squad also lost senior Kayla Miller and sophomore Brittny Bzdok to ACL injuries.
But what would have been a rebuilding season has taken a memorable twist as the Patriots have compiled a 17-7 record this season following a runner-up finish at the Long Prairie/Grey Eagle tournament on Saturday, Oct. 12.
So how did Pequot Lakes turn around this season?
Part of the reason is the play of the team’s two senior starters — setter Katie White, who has a team-high 397 set assists and is second with 141 kills, and Ashley Abear, who leads the team with 268 digs.
“Katie and Ashley have played very well,” Dale said. “It’s pretty unique to have (White) lead your team in set assists, and also be second in kills.”
Another reason is the admirable play of new starters like sophomores Morgan Lohmiller and Laura Squires. Lohmiller finished with 27 kills and 12 blocks while Squires had 10 kills and 26 digs in the LP/GE tournament.
“Our younger girls like Morgan and Laura have played well,” Dale said. “Morgan was the setter and Laura an outside hitter on the junior varsity team last year. They’ve stepped up this year, and Morgan leads our team with 20 ace serves.”
But one of the biggest reasons for the Patriots’ success is the return of senior hitter Vanessa Lane, who left volleyball to run cross country for Pequot Lakes last fall. Lane currently leads the Patriots with 183 kills and 87 blocks. She had 28 kills while adding nine blocks and five ace serves at LP/GE.
“I always loved volleyball, but I wanted to try something different last year,” Lane said of her cross country career. “I do miss everyone from cross country, but I’m happy to be back with my friends on the volleyball team.”
In some ways, Lane was inspired to return to volleyball after the season-ending injuries to Miller and Bzdok.
“I was there when Brittny tore her ACL,” Lane said of the summer league. “I felt bad for Brittny and Kayla. They have inspired me, and I’m dedicating my senior year to both of them. They would have played the same position as me.”
Lane said the Patriots worked hard over the summer, and now it’s paying off.
“We’re a young team, but we’ve grown together,” she said. “We have good chemistry, and it’s awesome to see the improvements.”
“Vanessa has worked hard, especially with our setters,” the coach said. “She has really filled a void in the middle.
“All of our kids have worked hard. Our younger girls have listened in practice, and our senior leadership with Katie, Vanessa, Ashley, Justyne (Litzau) and Jessica (Nies) has been a key.”
Wet PR-B homecoming
Weather conditions became challenging for many state-wide high school football teams on Friday, Oct. 11, when heavy rain, wind and thunderstorms passed through the area.
The Pine River-Backus Tigers’ homecoming game against visiting Blackduck featured a steady rain during most of the fourth quarter.
The Tigers and Drakes were mainly running in the final quarter since PR-B had scored four times on the passing combination of quarterback Zach Struss and receiver Brandon Mager earlier in the game.
Football games are not delayed by rain, although any chance of lightning does result in a delay in the game, or even a rare postponement. The start of Friday’s game in Pierz was delayed one day because of continuous lightning. PR-B activities director Randy Schwegel was monitoring a large rain cell moving in from the west, and came down on the field to update game officials.
The weather situation became a challenge, not only for the players, but for more than 100 fans that stayed through the rain to watch the final play. It also became difficult for the newspaper reporters trying to write down game statistics on paper or take photos of the action.
Heavy rain in mid-October was just another chapter to an unusual year of weather in Minnesota, which also included an extended winter that hindered much of the high school spring season.
Pete Mohs may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook.