The seventh-seeded Pelican Rapids volleyball team hosted the tenth-seeded Barnesville Trojans in the first round of the Section 8AA playoffs on Wednesday night. The Vikings and Trojans matched up just a few weeks ago for a back-and-forth 5-set battle that could not have been any closer. Pelican Rapids came out on top in this playoff encounter, winning 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 23-25, 25-18). “We knew we were going to have another battle on our hands tonight,” said Pelican Rapids Head Coach Heidi Isaman. “Both teams came ready to play and our gym was packed with fans from both sides that brought a great tournament atmosphere.”
“Both teams had made a few lineup changes and switches from our first meeting and set 1 was a back and forth battle of trying to figure out how to defend each other,” reported Coach Isaman. “Ari Hovland, Claudia Gurath, and Morgan Korf passed extremely well for us to start the game and we got our offense in system right away. Junior middle hitter Anna Roisum came to play tonight and hit the ball with power to get some early kills. Senior setter Ellie Welch did an amazing job executing the game play of finding Roisum and moving the ball well. Defensively it took us a little while to adjust to some changes the Trojans made and the Trojans also came ready to fire on all sides of the net, but the Viking offense held strong as our back row did a great job of giving us opportunities to execute all set.”
Isaman continued, “We continued to pass well to give our hitters great opportunities to swing and junior Anna Roisum took advantage once again swinging through the Trojans blockers. Senior Marie Backstrom had a few key kills on the outside pin in this set too and our front row started tightening up the block to really make the Trojans work. The Trojans did a great job of seeing the open spots on our court however and we had some trouble defending their short game. The Vikings however stayed aggressive offensively.
“The Trojans came out strong on the service line and we struggled to pass the ball,” noted Isaman. “This caused a big shift and the Trojans found themselves in system more than us and took advantage of the opportunity. This shift of momentum got us a little out of sync and not quite ready for the ball and we made too many errors. This found us down 1-5 to start the set right away. A nice service run by Ellie Welch and a few big kills from juniors Grace Backstrom and Anna Roisum had us back in business. The Trojans however did a great job of mixing up their offense and using our blockers to their advantage and had a few big runs of their own finding the open spots in our court. Libero Morgan Korf made some big defensive plays in this set but in the end we made a few too many blocking and passing errors and were not in system enough and the Trojans came out on top.”
“We knew we needed to serve receive better and made a few adjustments,” stated Coach Isaman. “We also knew we needed to adjust our block and do a better job reading and defending their soft game. We were ready to get back in sync and get our offense going at a higher level. Blockers Ellie Welch, Claudia Gurath, and Grace Backstrom tightened up their net play and did a great job closing our block in this set. Ari Hovland, Claudia Gurath, and Morgan Korf passed very well again and we had more opportunities to get our hitters the ball again. Freshman Ari Hovland was outstanding from the serving line in set 4. Ari went on a 4 point run early in the game to get the Trojans out of system and then an amazing 7 point run later in the set. This caused the Trojans to give a few overpasses and middle hitter Ellie Welch was ready to crank on those overpasses to seal the deal.”
State leaders were Roisum (19 kills, 13 digs, 12 assists), Welch (10 kills, 3 aces, 10 digs, 21 assists), Korf (31 digs, 1 ace), Hovland (3 aces, 15 digs), Gurath (12 digs, 3 kills), Marie Backstrom (6 kills, 7 digs) and Grace Backstrom (5 kills, 4 digs).
“I was so proud of these girls tonight for how aggressively they played and stayed focused to run the game plan,” concluded Isaman. “It was a great matchup and hard fought battle by both teams, which is what section tournament play is all about.” The Vikings travel to East Grand Forks to face the second-seeded Green Wave on Friday night.