One day after being swept by volleyball tournament-favorite Lakeville North, Anoka returned to the courts at Xcel Energy Center for the consolation bracket semifinal game. The unseeded Tornadoes came out strong to win the first game 25-17 against No. 5 seed Roseville Friday morning, but Roseville rebounded by winning the next three games to take the match 3-1 as the Tornadoes struggled to put together consistent scoring in the end.
Anoka rolled through the first game with confident offensive sets and great defensive reactions to set the plays they wanted to use in a 25-17 win. Mikayla Hong led the way with five kills and the team hit .200. Roseville struggled to put together its offense and hit .053 while making nine errors.
“Our block in the first game was huge with Lauren [Sherva] and the twins [Kelci and Kassi Green] were on fire and we worked some swings in there,” Anoka coach Chris Fenwick said. “Roseville was cold and that was a tribute to our blocking and hitting. It seemed like we were firing on all cylinders.”
Tables were reversed in the second game when a veteran Raiders squad took hold of the lead and never relinquished in a 25-18 game two final. Anoka tied it at 10-10 and 17-17, but that was as close as it would get. Roseville’s Melissa Koop flew around the court to dig out the ball, including key plays next to the scorer’s table, to keep the rally going. Raiders Melissa Graham finished the game off with a spike that bounced off an Anoka double block to the court.
Roseville’s momentum carried through the third game (25-18) to control the match 2-1. The Raiders never trailed, jumping to a 15-5 lead. Anoka tried to close the gap, but a late 10-9 rally fell short. Roseville cut its errors in half from the previous game and hit .275 percent. Anoka struggled with eight errors and a .093 hitting percentage.
Roseville finished off Anoka in game four 25-19. The Tornadoes fought back in the final game, but again, it was too little in the end. “Anybody could’ve gotten that fifth seed between us, Shakopee and Roseville and after that first game I thought we would play better than [the fifth seed],” Fenwick said.
Anoka faced a different kind of pressure from the first day’s game. The pressure to preserve the season for one more game was huge instead of trying to knock off the 2011 finalists and top seeds this year. “We were ready today, knowing it wasn’t Lakeville we were playing,” Kassi said as she had three kills in the first set and finished with eight kills. Kelci led the way with 11 kills and Hong had seven kills.
According to Fenwick, the Tornadoes seemed ready to fight back. “We told them before the match, ‘You played hard to get here and show the fans you deserve it.’,” Fenwick said. “They battled hard to the end which was awesome.”
Defensively, 6-foot, 1-inch senior hitter Sherva did her job of denying easy looks for the Raiders hitters. “She doesn’t get a lot of kills, but her defense is great and it’s her size that really counts because that can make the other team change shots which plays into what we’re trying to do,” Fenwick said.
Sherva finished with one block and three block assists along with one dig. She echoed the coaches thoughts about being ready from the start. “We were more comfortable,” Sherva said. “The whole team warmed up together and seemed to fit together better.”
Yesterday’s loss was easier to take because the team stuck together and didn’t get down, she said. “We knew it would be tough yesterday, but today we knew what to look for,” Sherva said.
Facing a veteran team like Roseville posed problems across the board in hitting, blocking and serve receiving. “We wanted to force them to go around our block, which they did,” Sherva said. “And they had some really good serves. We haven’t gone up against serves like that all year.”
The Tornadoes finish the season 23-9, playing the most games in a season in program history (32). Anoka graduates eight seniors and returns seven, including Hong and setter Abbie Sis.