With Mayer Lutheran’s 6-foot-2 middle hitter and Division I prospect Claudia Stahlke out with a sprained ankle, Cleveland head coach Bree Meyer thought the Clippers had some kind of chance in the subsection semifinal in New Ulm on Tuesday.
But at the end of the night, the state top-ranked Crusaders, who also fielded a 6-2 and a 6-1 hitter, swept the Clippers 3-0.
And thus ended perhaps the best volleyball season in the Cleveland history. While senior McKenna Robb set the school career record in both kills and digs, and Taylin Gosch set career record in sets, the Clippers, who finished the season at 21-12, swept the Valley Conference, were undefeated at home and only lost two regular season non-tournament games.
Mayer Lutheran, which draws players form the Southern Metro, set the tone with three straight kills to start set 1. Briefly interrupting the surge, Emily Kern slapped down a kill, and Lexi Hollerich, helped by the net, dropped in an ace serve, and the Clippers pulled within a point, 6-5 after the Crusaders served twice into the net and then knocked a kill out of bounds.
While the Clippers often needed some time to warm up this season, Head coach Bree Meyer knew there was no time to waste against Mayer Lutheran.
“I didn’t want them to play scared. I wanted them to play confident, and we came out pretty strong.”
But the Crusaders took the set over after that, scoring all but one of the next nine points to go up 16-6 before serving into the net. Kern kills accounted final four Clipper points, and the set ended 25-11 on a cross-court kill.
“When we start losing, it seems like we kind of lose hope,” Meyer said. “When we played Medford in the tournament in Burnsville the same thing happened.”
McKenna Robb’s kill was the first winner for the Clippers in set 2, but they were already behind 8-3. The Clippers fought hard, including with a circ-du-soleil save by Jordyn Klingel, but the Crusaders scored the next seven points, hit the ball into the net and then had a four-point spurt for a 19-5 advantage.
Down the stretch, Kern had a kill, and Hollerich had two kills, but the Clippers lost 25-9 after another Crusader missile.
The Crusaders had trouble keeping the ball out of the mesh in set 3, and with Robb and Kern winners, the Clippers stayed in the game, pulling within four, 20-16 on a Robb attack.
“For this not to be the end, we needed to play hard and play our game, so I am really glad they came out and did that,” Meyer said.
But the Crusaders posted the next four points, three on Clipper errors before Robb’s ace tip kept the Clippers alive. The Crusaders sent the ball out of bounds on the next two attacks but finished with a 25-19 triumph to put an exclamation mark on the sweep.
With a core group of seniors who were role models to the younger players, it was an emotional ending for the Clippers with waterworks from the freshmen on up to the seniors: Robb, Hollerich, Mya Krenik, Mazie Anderson and Mollee Grams.
“Did we play our best the first two? That’s questionable,” Meyer said. “But we had a great season, a lot of accomplishments, a lot of milestones. We’re sad that it’s over, but they should be proud.”
Robb ended the night with seven kills and 15 digs, one more of each than Kern, and they both had two blocks. Taylin Gosch had 11 set assists. Grayce Kortuem had three blocks. Emma Sweere and Hollerich each had eight digs. Anderson had four digs. Kortuem and Krenik had three digs. The Clippers missed four serves.
Mayer Lutheran went on to beat BOLD 3-0 and will face Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in the section final. After Clipper game, BOLD beat Minnesota Valley Lutheran 3-2.
Expect lots of awards at the Clipper volleyball banquet, Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 6 pm in the Cleveland Church of Christ.