STATE VOLLEYBALL: Slow starts doom Royals in Class AA quarterfinals

ST. PAUL – The experience of the state tournament is nothing new to the Watertown-Mayer volleyball team. They’ve been here before.

That’s why the Royals were left frustrated as they came out empty handed again in their Class AA quarterfinal matchup against fifth-seeded Concordia Academy Thursday night. Although the Royals beat the Beacons earlier this season, Concordia Academy took advantage of slow starts early by W-M, and handed the Royals a frustrating loss with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-12) sweep at the Xcel Energy Center.

“I don’t think they’re hard to overcome,” W-M coach Andrea Raser said about the slow starts. “We’ve done it all season. We just didn’t do it (tonight). It’s disappointing. We step on this stage, we earned our way here, and we go out there and just don’t step up to the plate. It’s frustrating because anyone who has watched us knows that’s not our game.”

In all three sets, the fourth-seeded Royals were forced to play catchup throughout. Even when they made a run to try and get back into it, the Beacons always had the answer.

“It’s super frustrating, especially when certain calls don’t go your way or uncontrollable things happen and you just can’t do anything about it,” junior Paige Thibault said. “You just have to work through it, and that just didn’t go in our favor tonight.”

W-M tried to fight through their struggles, but couldn’t seem to get out of their own way. Just when they showed some life to get back into the match, crucial mistakes kept pushing them back down.

“Honestly, they played a great game, but we gave them the game,” Raser said. “That’s what is frustrating. We didn’t play. It’s hard for me to talk about anything they did when we didn’t do what we needed to do.”

One bright spot for the Royals was the emergence of Ashley Olson. The sophomore middle hitter had five kills, two blocks, and two aces to give W-M a much-needed spark.

“Ashely stepped up,” Raser said. “Out of all the games that we needed her to step up, she came and she did what she needed to do. Unfortunately, the team didn’t back her up in that. You get somebody who’s been working really hard all year to get consistent, it’s frustrating. Imagine what would happen if we all were there tonight.”

For W-M, the message is to move on. What’s done is done, and their season is now on the line, as well. They’ll take on fellow Wright County Conference foe Annandale in the consolation semifinals tomorrow night. For senior Madison Peter, she simply wants her to team come out with more energy.

“I think we need to step up,” Peter said. “We need to get our energy back. We just need to play. Just play ball and be happy when we get a point. We need to celebrate more and just get excited and be proud we’re here.”

W-M defeated Annandale earlier this season, but ultimately, the Royals just need to move on and come out ready to play.

“I think we just need to shake off tonight and go get it tomorrow,” Thibault said. ‘“Just don’t think about anything that just happened. (It’s) a clean slate and new start tomorrow, and go play our game.”

“Just go out there with confidence,” Raser added. “How ironic is that you go and play a conference rival at the state tournament? No matter what, we just need to go out and have fun and play our game. Just not settle for being here. I’m sick of just being here. Let’s do something about it.”

With Thursday night’s loss to Concordia Academy, W-M is now 0-7 in state tournament matches. While it’s certainly frustrating, Raser believes that streak can be snapped simply by showing up ready to play.

“It’s not like there is a curse on is,” Raser said. “We just have to show up and play. Today, we played horrible. Our goal is to win our last game of the season. We’ve got time to do that yet. We’re not hanging our heads. We’re going to go out and keep playing ball.”

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