WACONIA – All season long the Delano volleyball team has been up to the challenge. That was the case once again for the Tigers as they battled Northfield for the Section 6AAA title.
Down 2-0 after two sets, Delano dug deep and rallied all the way back for a thrilling 3-2 (29-31, 18-25, 25-19, 25-22, 16-14) over the Raiders Nov. 2 for the first section title since 2013.
“It’s kind of crazy to think it was ten years ago that Delano made it to State,” Delano coach Becca Rue said. “To be honest, the time has flown by. We have competed in a few section title games since that time so to finally win that title game feels amazing. After being down 0-2, I’m so proud of this group.”
The first set was a tone-setter for the rest of the night. The Tigers had a 22-20 lead in the opening set, their biggest lead of the set. Northfield had the answer though with four straight points to retake the lead setting up an exciting finish. Down 24-22, a service error and an attack error by the Raiders ties things up at 24. Both teams exchanged blows down the stretch. Each team fought off four set points but in the end, it was Northfield who emerged on top. After a kill from Sydney Pink gave the Tigers a 29-28 lead, the Raiders answered with three-straight points to claim a 1-0 lead with a 31-29 victory.
Northfield rode that momentum in set two and took a commanding 2-0 lead with a 25-18 win but Delano refused to go down without a fight.
“Dropping set one was tough, and then we came out a little flat in set two,” Rue said. “After set two I told the girls they better be ready for a long night. I knew they had it in them to win the last three sets. We just needed to adjust to a few of Northfield’s tendencies, communicate, and believe.”
The Tigers did just that. A 25-19 win in set three and a 25-22 win in set four set up a decisive fifth set for the section title that saw extra points be needed to determine a winner once again.
Delano opened the fifth and final set with all the momentum. Cassie Wegman got things rolling with a kill and then Kaelyn Wittwer would add an ace and Lucy Fobbe would add a kill of her own to give the Tigers an early 3-0 lead out of the gate. Northfield was knocked back on their heels as Delano extended their lead to 9-4 but the Raiders never gave up. Northfield used a 4-0 run to get back within one but Pink and Wegman delivered back-to-back kills to snap the run by the Raiders to give Delano an 11-8 lead.
Despite all the momentum on Delano’s side, Northfield had one last run in them. A 4-0 run gave them a 12-11 lead, their first lead of the set. The Tigers would never panic as they would go on to score five of the final seven points as kills from Wegman and Tool sealed the win and the section title for Delano.
“I don’t know if you could have asked for a closer section championship,” Rue said. “Northfield is one of the top teams in the state and to come back after being down 0-2 takes a lot of heart and grit. When asked what has been the key to our success it definitely is the fact that we are so unselfish. I think we wore down Northfield with our balanced attack. I think that this balanced attack has made it difficult for other teams to understand our game plan and tendencies.”
The Tigers are back at the Class AAA state tournament for the first time since 2013 when they finished as runner-ups. Delano earned the No. 2 seed and will face off against unseeded Mahtomedi in the state quarterfinals.
“We are so excited for this week and the opportunity to compete at state,” Rue said. “Our fan base has also been absolutely outstanding. At times their energy is like adding a seventh player on the court.”