Anoka gets taste of state’s best

Tornadoes drop matches to Lakeville North, Roseville

One day after being swept by would-be state volleyball champion Lakeville North, Anoka returned to the courts at Xcel Energy Center for the consolation bracket semifinal match.

Anoka Libero Hailee Gifford stretches for a ball during the Class AAA state quarterfinals. Photo by Bill Jones

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.”

Anoka’s Laura Sherva, left, and Kassi Green, right, attempt to block a shot Nov. 9. Photo by Bill Jones

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 got 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 match. The pressure to preserve the season for one more match 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.”

Thursday’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 matches in a season in program history (32). Anoka graduates eight seniors and returns seven, including Hong and setter Abbie Sis.

Powerful Panthers send Anoka to consolation
Top-ranked Lakeville North showed why it deserves the recognition as one of the state’s top programs after handing unranked and unseeded Anoka a 3-0 loss in the Class AAA state volleyball quarterfinals Thursday morning at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The Panthers swept the Tornadoes who appeared at state for the first time in nine years by scores of 25-16, 25-22, 25-14. This is Lakeville North’s sixth time since 2005 and third straight since splitting with Lakeville South. North made 10 appearances.

“All in all, I thought we played them tougher in the first game then once Lakeville North pulled out that lead in the third game, that’s the first time the girls have given up in a long time,” second-year Anoka coach Fenwick said. “So that’s a little disheartening there.

“Lakeville North is very solid and hats off to them, I hope they win the whole tournament. So all in all, I’m very proud of the way they performed.”

The Panthers hit .583 in the first game but couldn’t sustain that hot start in the second and third games while Anoka struggled to get the ball consistently to its middle hitters.

As a result, the team hit .100 for the game, compared with Lakeville North’s .322 hitting percentage.

After a quick first game, Anoka pushed the Panthers in game 2 never trailing by more than a couple of points until the end. Anoka led 2-1, but Lakeville North led from that point on, despite committing eight errors compared with Anoka’s four errors.

“We swapped points, but it came down to errors and our serving was terrible,” Fenwick said. “Lakeville North keeps you off balanced and you have to be able to hit your marks or they’ll make you pay.”

Nerves from playing on the state court for the first time in a while seemed to affect the Tornadoes more than Fenwick expected. “I thought they would be a little more calmed down,” he said. Anoka came in with an underdog mentality with nothing to lose.
“We just wanted to go out there and play our best,” Anoka senior Kelci Green said about the plan for the state opener. “We knew they are a great team but we wanted to focus on ourselves more than who we were playing.”

“I think they were a little over matched,” Fenwick said, wishing his side could have set the middle hitters more. “Our passes were pretty good, but we were pushed too far to the left which fed into their strong right blockers. We couldn’t hit over the top of them.”

On the defensive side, Anoka struggled to match the Panthers’ discipline at times.

“Some of the girls weren’t disciplined enough to stay home and a team like Lakeville has been here before,” Fenwick said.

Anoka’s Kassi and Kelci Green each had seven kills followed by Mikayla Hong’s six kills.

Abbie Sis had 15 assists and Cece Rand led the way with six digs.

Lakeville North’s standout hitter Alyssa Goehner had a match-high 17 kills and nine digs.

 

Setter Erica Handley had 35 assists and four other Panthers had six kills to spread the attack around.

Lakeville North’s legendary coach Walt Weaver noted Anoka’s athleticism to score some strong points. “They’re a solid, athletic team and that was very apparent,” he said. “They have a great left hitter, Libero and the two middles are major kids.”

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