MAYER – The postseason is what the Mayer Lutheran volleyball team prides itself on. A perennial section title and state tournament contender, the Crusaders work all season long for one goal – a state title.
Mayer Lutheran didn’t get the chance to fight for that this season. In fact, after their season was cut short, they didn’t get a chance to even contend for a Section 2A title.
“With the season starting up and having a shortened season with only section playoff matches was going to be something we all had to wrap our minds around,” Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. “My philosophy has always been the season is just our journey where we learn about each other and get better for playoffs. Win or lose a match, the conference season was all part of the season. Then playoffs begin and that is the time we begin our peak. That philosophy took a hard shaking this year.”
Ranked No. 3 in the final Class A poll of the season, the Crusaders were poised for another section tournament run. They never got the chance as their season was cut short, forcing Grimsley and her coaches to rethink how they do things.
“We as a staff and a team had to come to grips with a different reality,” Grimsley said. “This took us all weeks to figure out different goals and motivation to excel in whatever our situation was. When we all did this, we were able to focus much better. Our goal at that time, with six matches left and no playoffs, was to finish with no losses.”
The Crusaders did just that. They finished the season with an overall record of 11-1. All 11 wins came in three-straight sets. Their lone loss of the season was just a five-set loss to Southwest Christian.
“I am so proud of the way this team persevered through such a strange season,” Grimsley said. “We were able to give thanks for so many things as we continued to play. In one of our last devotions, the girls all expressed items they were thankful for. Health, this volleyball team, technology, being in school, family, and friends. The team built many memories in a short period and worked very hard. They only lost three sets for the season and wished they could play Southwest Christian again. This season has taught us all to continue to be grateful for what we do get to do and rise every day and give thanks.”
As strange as the season was throughout for the Crusaders, the end topped it all. Due to being forced into quarantine, Grimsley was unable to coach the team in the fall week and change of the season. During that stretch, she not only missed the final moments with her team but also her senior libero Morgan Chmielewski recording her 1,000th career dig against Norwood Young America Nov. 19.
“The last 12 days of the season, I would not even be able to coach my team,” Grimsley said. “ I often wondered which was worse. The way last season ended with a five-set match losing 17-15 and missing out on state, or this season not being with this team at the end of the season to be there for support and watch Morgan reach 1,000 digs?”
Through it all, this was a season to remember for everyone involved in the Mayer Lutheran volleyball program. The memories were made despite not getting a chance to reach their ultimate goal.
“The relationships that we built are always there for our memories,” Grimsley said. “It would have been exciting to see what this team could have accomplished on and off the court.”
As the season comes to an end, so do the careers of three seniors (Chmielewski, Brooke Friske, and Sydney Lehrke). All three have left their marks, especially in this crazy season.
“Morgan has been a three-year starter for the Crusaders and has led in so many ways,” Grimsley said. “Getting 1,000 career digs, being a captain, playing soccer, and being nominated the Homecoming Queen are just a few things that she has been able to accomplish this year. She has been a great leader for us and a role model for so many young players. Her determination and work ethic will be greatly missed. I will miss her dearly. Brooke Friske and Sydney Lehrke were first-year varsity players as seniors, and stepped right in leading also in so many ways.”