A byproduct of enjoying a successful season is that the eventual end is that much more difficult to process.
After Saturday’s loss against Bethlehem Academy in the Section 1A final at the Rochester Mayo Civic Center, the Kenyon-Wanamingo volleyball team was hit hard by a wave of emotions following the end of their season.
A large part of that, K-W coach Tracy Erlandson said, was the fact the Knights had lost only four times this season entering Saturday.
“This isn’t normal for us,” Erlandson said. “Our record was 19-4, so we’ve only had four losses and we never had to really experience the loss part of it. They’re very sad. There’s a lot of heads that were down and a lot of emotions, but like I told them, when you win and when you lose, you learn something. You have to learn from it now and we’re going to move on.”
The main lesson from Saturday, is that a section championship takes a comprehensive effort. Throughout the 25-16, 26-24, 25-21 loss, Erlandson said her team showed why it not only belonged in the section final, but why it had the ability to claim the section championship.
Against a talented Bethlehem Academy team, though, the Knights too often lifted their foot off the throttle a moment too soon.
“We just had too many mistakes,” Erlandson said. “I called a timeout and one point and I said, it’s like we do this great play and then we stand up and become spectators instead of staying in our stance, playing defense and reacting to where the ball is going. We just thought they weren’t going to dig it up. BA’s a great team. They play great defense and they dig up the balls that we thought would normally be a kill.”
The bright spot, Erlandson said, is that the Knights return all but three of their regular rotation players for next year.
After two of the team’s five losses this season came against Bethlehem Academy — first to decide the Gopher Conference title and then the Section 1A title — Erlandson said she expects the group to return next fall with a burning drive to return to the Section 1A final and emerge with something greater than a second-place trophy.
“We have to take what we learned this year and just go with it,” Erlandson said.
Kenyon-Wanamingo will have to replace a trio of seniors in Leah Berg, Stella Rechtzigel and Julia Dahl that not only logged heavy playing time, but also led a relatively young team to the precipice of a spot in the state tournament.
“They’re great leaders and they show it on and off the court,” Erlandson said. “Leah Berg, Stella and Julia Dahl, I’ve coached them for years in different sports. They’re just leaders and they lead by example. If you do something wrong they’re in your face because they all want to be good. That’s why this is so hard, because you can taste it.”