With an ace — or aces — at their disposal, Rogers’ volleyball team is poised for a third crack at the top-ranked team in the state.
Anya Schmidt had 24 kills and 14 of her team’s 17 service aces as the Royals dispatched Lakeville North 21-25, 25-15, 25-19, 26-24 in a classy quarterfinal game 4A of the Volleyball State Tournament on Wednesday.
Going 29-4, the fifth-seeded Royals, entering their first state tournament, get the top-seeded and undefeated Wayzata in Thursday’s semifinals. The Trojans, who easily swept Roseville in the quarterfinals, have beaten Rogers twice this season.
Between those losses, Rogers had 24 straight wins while dropping only two sets.
Even so, the Royals weren’t ranked among the top 10 teams in the state this season, a lightweight coach Bo Schmidt is happy to use as motivation.
“We kind of use that, like, ‘Hey, here we are, guys. That’s what we can do. We’re excited to showcase that here at Xcel,” he said. “…We have nothing to lose.”
The key to this success is the jumping, topspin serves with the power of Anya Schmidt and Allyson Ritter that Lakeville North, like most opponents, is not used to seeing.
Although the Royals can serve more aggressively, it sometimes leads to too many errors in service, admitted Bo Schmidt.
“If you stick with it you see what happens because no one expects it, no one does, and those four or five point runs that you can get make a huge difference, and then we have great floating servers across the board,” he said. “At some point this season, we had all of our six starters in the top 50 service aces.”
“We did a good job in the first set not letting their servers get started. In sets two and three it changed a bit for us,” said Lakeville North coach Jackie Richter. “…It’s rare service you see at this level for us.”
Kaitlynn Peterson had 10 kills for the fourth-seeded Panthers (22-10), entering the state tournament for the third time in four years.
A late trade gave the Panthers a chance to even things up in a seesaw fourth set.
“We figured out how to pass the serve, we found a way to score against this team, and we implemented it more,” setter Abby Jandro said.
An 8-2 push gave Lakeville North a 20-19 lead in the fourth set. Three straight points went to Rogers, followed by two to the Panthers to make it 22-22.
At 24-24l, a point from Anya Schmidt was followed by a counter winner from Brynn Reines.
“In the first two sets, I started out getting blocked twice,” Reines said. “I just had to focus on my game and play for my team. I just knew at the end that I had to be one of the people who stepped up.
She finished with 18 kills and two blocks.
Lakeville North dominated early in the first set, winning 11-4, but the nervous Royals came back to 19-16 before the Panthers pulled out late.
“About halfway through the first set we settled in and started playing our game,” Bo Schmidt said. “They got ahead pretty early, the speed of serve wasn’t quite there, making a few mistakes. But we stuck to our plan, and everything fell into place after going through that phase. .
A combination of better ball movement, service aces and poor passing from Panther led to a 10-point victory in Game 2, then Rogers scored six of the last seven points to claim the third set.