BURLINGTON - The Midkota volleyball team looks forward to the Des Lacs-Burlington Laker Invitational every year. The only problem is the Mustangs haven't been invited to compete for a few years.
That desired invite came in the mail this season after Midkota finished third at the state tournament last year. The Mustangs will probably be invited back next year and for years to come after defeating Our Redeemer's Christian School in straight games (25-20, 25-21) in the championship.
Midkota senior middle hitter Emily Berge dominated the match with 17 kills, including the championship clincher.
Our Redeemer’s Christian School sophomore outside hitter Gabi Boeckel attempts a shot past Midkota junior Shaye Ronningen (2) and senior Emily Berge during the Laker Invitational championship match Saturday at Burlington-Des Lacs Elementary School.
"We knew it was going to be tough," Berge said. "We knew we could do it if we played our best volleyball."
The Mustangs never trailed in the first game. Tied at three, Midkota went on a 9-3 run to take a comfortable lead.
Midkota's height was on display as the Knights struggled to get shots over the outstretched hands of outside hitters Caitlinn Harding (5-foot-11) Shaye Ronningen (5-foot-10) and Kallie Frappier (5-foot-10). Their height, along with Berge's eight kills, helped the Mustangs take the first game of the best-of-three match.
"We came out here determined to show that we can play pretty good volleyball and prove that last year's state tournament performance was no fluke," Midkota coach Mike Timm said. "I'm very proud of our girls and what we did today."
The ORCS seniors did all they could in the second game to try and force a third-game tiebreaker, but Berge, Frappier and Ronningen proved to be too tough. The trio combined for 10 kills and two aces in the second game to win the tournament title.
ORCS senior outside hitter Ashley Koppinger led the Knights (25-7-4 overall) in three statistical categories for the tournament. Koppinger finished with 89 kills, seven aces and 12 blocks. Senior middle hitter Emily VanLith recorded 35 kills, six aces and eight blocks. Eighth-grade setter Morgan Olson led the Knights with 81 assists and 36 digs for the tournament.
"Second place was good to get," Koppinger said. "First would have been better but second's good too. We played a whole lot better today."
Despite falling short of their first Laker Invitational title, the Knights were happy with their performance.
"It is a confidence booster," ORCS coach Sherry Carlson said. "We had so much fun and we decided we have to put the fun back into the game if we want to be successful. I think they're ready to finish the district strong."
The Knights advanced to the championship game after defeating Ray in three games (13-25, 25-14, 15-11).
Bishop Ryan defeated Hazen (25-16, 25-18) and Park River (25-14, 25-19) to earn the No. 2 seed in Pool B. The Lions (15-12-2) lost to Ray in three games (22-25, 25-18, 15-6) and were eliminated from trophy contention after losing to Kenmare (25-21, 25-16). The top six finishers were awarded trophies in the championship bracket.
ORCS returns to District 12 play at Kenmare and Ryan hosts Hazen. Both games are at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.