Caledonia volleyball had a week they will not ever forget, posting two huge hard-fought wins in come-back fashion. Scott Koepke’s Warriors were super resilient in fighting their way to the moniker of 2023 1AA champions. Team Cal (2-seed, 24-5) started its week with an easy 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-17) win over Cotter (10-seed, 10-9) in the 1AA quarters. Logan Koepke (17 kills), Liv Myhre (10 kills), and Emma Rommes (30 assists, 12 digs) led the way. Emme Kittleson (9 digs, 23-25 serving, 2 aces), Aubrie Klug (15 digs), Kennedy Hansen (10 digs), and Braelyn Lange (6 kills) helped. In the semis, it was re-match from last year as #5 Caledonia (2-seed, 25-5) took on #8 Z-M (3-seed, 20-9). In game one, the Warriors led 10-6, only for Z-M to then control the set. A 12-2 spurt led to an 18-12 lead. Z-M prevailed 25-21. Caledonia controlled game two, leading from start to finish for the 25-16 victory. In game three, Z-M broke a 16-16 tie with a 4-0 mini-spurt. Top Cougar hitter Lilly Mehrkens had two kills in the run. Caledonia fell 25-20 and looked up at a 2-1 deficit. But the regular season contest was the same after three sets. The Warriors repeated history threefold, but it not without some very tense moments. After Cal led early, game four was tight late (ties at 17, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24, and 25). Z-M twice got to game/match point (24-23, 25-24). Caledonia got to even (25-25) on a big block and went ahead on a Koepke cross-court kill (26-25). They won it on a Z-M offensive error. The Warriors evened the match at 2-2 via a 27-25 victory.
Game five was then anti-climactic. Caledonia jumped out 8-2 and cruised to a 15-5 win. They posted a 3-2 comeback victory (21-25, 25-16, 20-25, 27-25, 15-5). Cal won 3-2 in the regular season (24-26, 25-18, 16-25, 25-20, 15-9) and 3-2 in last year’s semis (20-25, 25-23, 21-25, 25-18, 16-14). The Warriors came back from down 2-1 in all three matches. Koepke (21 kills, 12 digs, 17-17 serving, 2 aces), Rommes (5 kills, 45 assists, 20 digs), and Kittleson (32 digs, 21-23 serving, 3 aces) did huge work. Klug (4 kills, 26 digs), Myhre (15 kills), and Lange (7 kills) helped. Merhkens (19 kills, 23 digs), Ella Chandler (18 kills, 14 digs), Megan Jasperson (13 kills, 28 digs), Paislee Peterson (32 assists, 18 digs), and Melanie Raasch (8 kills, 28 digs) led the Cougars. The Warriors moved on to a rematch with Cannon Falls (4-seed, 15-16) for the 1AA title.
Caledonia’s resolve reached a different level against the defending state champions. The Bombers played most of the year without All-State hitter 6’2” Madison Burr. Her presence was helpful in a semifinal 3-2 win over Chatfield, and for two sets versus the Warriors. Cannon controlled each. Kallie Johnson slammed down six first set kills in a 25-17 win. CF started game two up 8-2 and prevailed 25-18. Caledonia had two stretches of back-to-back-to-back hitting errors. CF was cruising. But they then relaxed in game three. And Cal blitzed to a 25-11 win. The Warriors settled in, their defense played strongly, they grabbed momentum, and did not let go. Set four teetered about midway, CF leading 13-11. But senior hitter Logan Koepke put down five kills in an 8-0 Warrior run. She was hot despite pounding into the 6’2” Burr (and others). Up 19-13, the game teetered no more. Cal took it 25-15. And despite being the defending state champs, Cannon could not stop the Warriors momentum in game five. Cal started up 7-3. CF closed to down 10-8. They scored no more. Koepke scored three of the Warriors final five points via kill (including getting help from the net twice). She pounded down the last point off a block. In stunning fashion, the Warriors came back from down 0-2 to win 3-2 (17-25, 18-25, 25-11, 25-15, 15-8). Their last three sets were impressive. They punched their first trip to state since 2016’s 1A runner-up. Koepke (28 kills, 16 digs) was strong all-around. The defensive effort of Klug (35 digs), Kittleson (15 digs, 22-22 serving), and Kennedy Hansen (17 digs) was also clutch. Rommes went for 43 (assists) and 10 (digs). Myhre chipped in 13 (kills) and 3 (total blks). Sienna Augedahl (8 kills) and Lange (5 kills) helped on “O.” Burr (17 kills, 13 digs, 4 blks) led CF. Johnson (12 kills, 16 digs) and Karsyn Winchell (8 kills, 26 digs) helped on offense. Falon Hepola (39 assists, 11 digs) did the setting. Katie Tipton added 26 digs. The Warriors were 100 for 100 serving! CF was 83 of 84. Caledonia (27-5) is seeded third at state, will face Concordia Academy (20-10), a team they beat 2-1 at the Apple Valley Tourney.