After it was all completed, the top four teams in state in Class AA volleyball were Pequot Lakes, Rush City, Southwest Christian and Caledonia. Each took home a trophy. And yet it took Pequot Lakes five sets to overcome the Warriors, before beating Rush City in a sweep. Rush City swept Southwest Christian, which then beat Caledonia in four! It sometimes does not quite add up, but that is high level prep volleyball. It can be a rollercoaster. The Warriors gave the eventual state champ all they wanted. A fourth-place finish is probably a little disappointing resultantly. But it was a fantastic season. Of all the great teams Coach Scott Koepke has headed, this is only the third Warrior squad to reach St. Paul. They accomplished a lot, as a group of six seniors spearheaded a special year.
Cal Sweeps Concordia Academy in Quarters
Fresh off a fantastic 1AA tourney, #5 Caledonia (3-seed, 27-5) took on unranked and unseeded Concordia Academy (Section 4AA Champ, 20-10) in the quarters. Scott Koepke’s group romped to a 25-12 win in game one. Senior Annah Anderson scored six points in an early service session that put the Warriors up 12-4. She had all three of Caledonia’s aces in the set (10-10 serving). In game two, Concordia played much better and the set was a fight. Cal fell behind 6-2, later led 16-11, only for Concordia to tie things at 18. The Warriors built a late 24-21 lead, but the Beacons staved off three game points to tie it at 24. Ivy Newville was their go-to hitter, and the 5’11” OH had two key kills down the stretch. The set was then tied at 25, 26, and 27. Caledonia twice more was at set point. They staved off a set point. Finally, after a strong ping-pong defensive effort kept the ball alive, the Warriors reaped the whirlwind on a Concordia hitting error. A second error gave Caledonia the game 29-27. They went ahead 2-0. Cal then fought back from an early 6-3 deficit and powered to a 25-14 game three win, one highlighted late by Emma Rommes serving up a couple aces and Sienna Augedahl scoring with a trio of ace or assisted blocks in a five-point cluster. Six girls had at least four kills for the match. Logan Koepke (11 kills, 7 digs) and Aubrie Klug (9 kills on .615 hitting) led the effort. Klug’s game was a boost, as she usually is not a high-volume hitter in the Warrior offense. Braelyn Lange (7 kills), Liv Myhre (5 kills), and setter Rommes (5 kills, 31 assists, 5 digs) also did so. Kennedy Hansen had 8 digs to lead that effort. Behind Anderson’s four, the Warriors out-aced Concordia 11-2. They out-hit the Beacons .398 to .120. Newville (13 kills), Grace Tverberg (25 assists), and Jaylen Roettger (11 digs) led Concordia Academy. Caledonia had previously beaten the Beacons 2-1 in winning the Apple Valley Tourney.
Warriors Can’t Close Out Victory in Semis, Fall in Five Sets
The #5 Warriors (3-seed, 28-5) then took on #4 Pequot Lakes (2-seed, Section 6AA Champ, 28-5) in the semifinals. It was there for Caledonia. A win was just a few points away, multiple times. The Warriors took the first two sets. In game one, they rallied from down 13-7 early. A late Logan Koepke service session was the tide-turner. Caledonia entered it down 19-18 but left ahead 21-19. With it 22-21, the Warriors scored the final three, two via PL errors, for the 25-21 win. Game two was controlled by team Cal. Koepke served eight straight points including a pair of aces as Cal jumped out 14-5. Pequot could not recover as the Warriors took the game 25-19. Koepke had seven kills, Aubrie Klug nine digs. The Warrior defense was stingy. They particularly frustrated PL’s Ella Kratochvil, who had 31 kills in the quarters. She had just six kills after two sets. But despite being up 2-0, closing out the Patriots, who made last year’s 1AA final, was not easy. PL started set three up 8-3. Grace Hoffard, a 5’11” middle hitter, asserted herself. She was the Patriots’ standout for the night. The senior tallied seven kills and five total blocks in the set. They took game three 25-17 to close to down 2-1. Game four was then a dogfight. It had 11 ties and five lead changes. As it wound down, Caledonia was inching its way toward a state title match. They led 20-16 and 23-19. But the Patriots resolve was unflinching, particularly given their coach Christine Ganley could not call timeout late because she had used them up. Hoffard led the comeback, scoring with two kills and two blocks in a 6-0 PL run to end the set. She blocked down point 24 and joined with Kratochvil in blocking down point 25. The Patriots forced a fifth game by 25-23 final. Set five was also a scrap, as two excellent teams went at it. It had 10 ties. A Koepke kill got Caledonia close, up 13-12. A Braelyn Lange/Sienna Augedahl combo block got them closer still, to match point, up 14-13. But Kratochvil, who had been flummoxed at times, scored two kills over the final three points. Sandwiched between was a Warrior error. The 3-0 run gave the Patriots the 16-14 win. In a fantastic match, but an agonizing loss (after leading 2-0), the Warriors fell 3-2 (25-21, 25-19, 17-25, 23-25, 14-16). It was their first five-set loss of the year. They were 4-0 previously. For once top-ranked Pequot, it was their second down 0-2 comeback in as many days, as they did so to beat Redwood Valley in the quarters. Hoffard was the Patriots’ savior with her big game (21 kills on .267 hitting, 9 digs, 11 total blocks). Kratochvil (16 kills, 20 digs) also hit double-digit kills albeit hitting poorly (.025). Both are All-State players. Alexa Pietig added 9 (kills) and 8 (assists). Aubrey Larsen (42 assists, 18 digs) set the table. Kelsi Martini had a match-high 32 digs to lead both teams. Koepke (29 kills, 18 digs, 29-30 serving, 4 aces) carried a heavy load for the Warriors as their go-to attacker and top server. She had 96 attacks and 5, 7, 6, 6, and 5 kills in each set (albeit hitting .083). Setter Rommes (46 assists, 23 digs) was also strong. Aubrie Klug had a team-best dig total (4 kills, 24 digs). Liv Myhre (11 kills) and Lange (10 kills) helped on offense. Emme Kittleson (21 digs) gave the Warriors three girls with 20-plus digs. They had 119 as a team. Pequot had 110. Cal hit .077 while the Patriots hit .112. The Warriors were credited with 42 hitting errors, PL with 30. Each team served at 96.2% (101-105) though Caledonia had nine aces to PL’s four.
Cal Runs Out of Steam, Falls to SWC in Third Place Match
After a devastating loss, one that ended past the 10 p.m. hour, the Warriors (28-6) turned around and took on #1 Southwest Christian (1-seed, Section 2AA Champ, 27-6) in the third-place match the next day. Caledonia came out strong with a 6-0 start. SWC rallied to close to down one four times thereafter, the last at 20-19. But a Logan Koepke kill and a pair of Warrior blocks were parts of a 4-0 spurt to end the match. Caledonia took game one 25-20. The second set was then the most competitive. It had a ridiculous 22 ties (including at every number up to 15)! Caledonia was at game point up 24-23. They fought off game points down 25-24, and 26-25. Koepke had three kills down the stretch. But a Warrior service error and a kill by SWC’s Taylor Miedema gave the Stars the set, 28-26, as they evened the match 1-1. And maybe the previous night’s game finally wore on the Warriors. They dropped set three 25-14. Cal did not use its normal rotation of players, as Coach Koepke got 13 girls into the match to get them in on the state experience. And the Warriors fell well back in game four too, as SWC started 13-4. Caledonia closed to down 17-15. But the Stars closed out the set 25-20 for the 3-1 match win (20-25, 28-26, 25-14, 25-20). They ended Cal’s season, as the Warriors take fourth place at state. Koepke (17 kills, 7 digs, 3 ace blocks) and Liv Myhre (12 kills) had double digit kills. Emma Rommes (31 assists, 8 digs) set the table. Emme Kittleson (17 digs, 19-19 serving, 3 aces) led the defensive effort. Braelyn Lange (7 kills) and Kennedy Hansen (11 digs) helped. Elizabeth Coleman (16 kills on .286 hitting), All-State libero Luca Bredenberg (24 digs, 24-25 serving, 5 aces), and Libby Weckman (27 assists, 8 digs) led SWC. The Stars hit .132, Caledonia .077. Cal beat SWC at the Class AA Showcase 2-1 (17-25, 25-18, 15-12) earlier this year. The Warriors’ season concludes at 28-7. It is their most wins since the 2016 state Class A runner-up squad went 30-6. It is Warrior volleyball’s seventh 20-win season in the last decade. The senior group of Koepke, Rommes, Kittleson, Lange, Hansen, and Anderson combined to help Cal teams go 68-29 the past three years with a pair of 1AA title game visits. And Scott and Logan Koepke had the special father-daughter season, experiencing state together in the latter’s senior year. Logan, a 1,000-kill, 1,000-dig player, made All Tourney team (team-best 57 kills, 32 digs).