ST. PAUL – The Mayer Lutheran volleyball team has had a target on their back all season long as they’ve been the No. 1 ranked team in Class A throughout. Each time they take the floor, they know they’re going to get the opposing team’s best.
Junior Gabby Wachholz made sure the Crusaders moved one step closer to their ultimate goal as she came out on fire from the opening serve to lead Mayer Lutheran to a 3-0 (25-16, 25-7, 25-19) sweep of Bethlehem Academy to advance to the Class A championship match.
“We have that X on our back being ranked No. 1 all year,” Mayer Lutheran coach Joelle Grimsley said. “It’s normal. Everywhere we go, we know that people are out to get us, Who wouldn’t be? When you’re the underdog, you want to win that and beat somebody. We know that and we talk about that a lot. Everybody wants to beat you.”
Gabby Wachholz was unstoppable for Mayer Lutheran in the opening set recording eight kills on just 12 attacks to give Mayer Lutheran the 1-0 lead.
“I was just focused on playing smart and playing for my team,” Gabby Wachholz said. “Finding the court and keeping the other team guessing (was big).”
Gabby Wachholz and the Crusaders didn’t let up after taking control with the win in set one. A dominant 25-7 in set two put Bethlehem Academy in a big hole as Mayer Lutheran continued to set the tone.
“I think that’s super key for us,” Lilly Wachholz said. “We talked about just starting strong and playing the pace of our game. I think in that first set we just stayed consistent the whole time and that boosted everyone’s confidence for the second and third set.”
With the win, Mayer Lutheran sits just one more win away from capturing their fourth state title in program history – a goal they set for themselves since the beginning of the season.
“This is something we’ve been looking forward to the whole year,” Gabby Wachholz said. “It just feels surreal. We’re all so happy and excited.”
“After last year and not being able to get this experience, and now this year here we are, it’s awesome,” Madeline Guetzkow added.
While state tournament appearances have been a regular occurrence, that doesn’t take away from how much this year means to this program. Mayer Lutheran will be playing for their third state title in six years, a moment that’s not lost on the head coach.
“It’s emotional for me because it’s the third time now,” Grimsley said. “It’s just emotional because all the memories these girls get is what I do this for. It’s crazy to think that we’re here again. With this group of girls, it’s really exciting and well deserved.”
Mayer Lutheran will enter the Class A title game with six-straight sweeps this postseason. While they are certainly playing well, Grimsley wants her team to peak tomorrow on the state’s biggest stage.
“They’re just playing well,” Grimsley said. “They were scrappy tonight. You can see that if it doesn’t go to our setter we still find a way to stay in system. That’s what we’ve done all year. It’s just been fun to see some of the other kids step up. If we’re out of system, we’re still going to be aggressive and get that ball over. This is what we’re expecting our team to do. We’re trying to peak tomorrow. Tomorrow we want to play our best.”
The Crusaders will face a familiar foe for the Class A title in Minneota. The two programs have combined to win the past four state titles and have met twice already this season. Mayer Lutheran won the two previous matches, both of which went the maximum amount of sets. First serve is set for 1 p.m. at the Xcel Energy Center Saturday.
“It feels amazing,” Lilly Wachholz said. “It shows all the hard work that we’ve done since August. Now we’re here. It feels good now that it’s paying off that we’re finally here.”
Follow Kip Kovar on Twitter – @Kovar_HJSports