If there’s ever a good time to lose, Blaine’s volleyball team may have found it last weekend.
The Bengals saw some of the toughest competition they’ll face all season at the Eagle Invitational in Apple Valley. They went 3-1 in the tournament to place third. Blaine lost to Wayzata in the semifinals before coming back to beat defending state Class 3A champion Eden Prairie 23-25, 25-20, 15-12 in the third-place match.
Losing to Wayzata ended a nine-match winning streak for the Bengals (10-1 overall), but could be beneficial as the season continues, Blaine coach Celeste Gorman said.
“We saw some areas where we need to improve,” Gorman said. “That’s why you want to play in good tournaments like this. We found out what some of our weaknesses are, and we’ll work on them (this) week.”
Blaine was defending champion at the Eagle Invitational, which included the top-ranked teams in Class 3A (Lakeville North), 2A (Marshall) and 1A (Bethlehem Academy).
Lakeville North won the tournament, beating Wayzata in the championship match.
The Bengals won the Eagle Invitational last year as part of a season-opening 22-match winning streak. Blaine eventually played in the state Class 3A tournament.
“Last year we won so many matches at the start of the season that our first loss (in a tournament at Eastview High School) was tough for us,” Gorman said. “We didn’t know how to react. I’m sure there was a target on us, and I think there’s a target on us this year.”
By now, though, the Bengals are used to it. Their young, talented roster is led by 6-foot-2-inch junior Lydia Dimke, a setter and outside hitter. She played for a Northern Lights club team that won a national championship in the summer of 2011.
In addition to being a top setter, Dimke also is a powerful hitter. “Half of Lydia’s swings are kills,” Gorman said. “The beauty with Lydia is that even when teams know we’re going to her, they still can’t stop it.”
Middle hitter Brooke Christenson and outside hitter McKayla Berres, both juniors, also played well during the Eagle Invitational, Gorman said. Playing several talented teams in the tournament also put pressure on the Bengals’ defense, and it held up well, she said.
The Bengals, 5-0 in the Northwest Suburban Conference, take a break from league play this week. They return to action in their individual tournament Saturday at 9 a.m. Other teams in the tournament include Chisago Lakes, Concordia Academy, Delano, North St. Paul, Roseville, St. Cloud Apollo and Tartan.
Andover, a first-time entrant in the Eagle Invitational, won one of its four matches. The Huskies defeated Apple Valley 25-15, 26-24 in their final match. They were 6-9 overall going into their non-conference match Monday against second-ranked Wayzata.
Mike Shaughnessy is at