The girls volleyball team is young and filled with talent - which is something that made the final conference game of the season a little bittersweet.
On Thursday, Oct. 3, Monticello fell to defending state champion North Branch in a five-set match that had everyone in the Monticello gymnasium on the edge of their seats.
The girls fought hard and had some big plays against the 2018 2A champions.
In the first two sets North Branch got the wins.
The first set was a fast-paced 25-11 game. Monticello couldn’t keep up, but adjusted in the second set to finish at a more competitive 25-18.
In the third set the Magic made the necessary adjustments – which all were made in serve receive – in order to earn the 26-24 win.
The teams went point for point in that third set, but ultimately, the win came from aggressive plays by outside hitter Natalie Emmerich, mature decisions by Setter Sydney Lemke, and outstanding serve receive by Maddy Huschka and Mya Brion.
In these sets, head coach Beth Modaff said she saw glimpses of confidence and a sense of belonging in the girls.
“That’s what we’ve been waiting for all season,” Modaff said. “This young team doesn’t know how talented they are. We’ve been waiting for them to really compete and believe in themselves and we saw that tonight. We can compete on that level when we believe in ourselves.”
In the fourth set, North Branch looked nervous. Both teams wanted it, badly.
North Branch made a lot of little mistakes, that worked in Monti’s favor. The Magic were winning 23-21 and North Branch called a timeout with the serve. Lemke returned the ball with a kill from the outside and set up from Holker, making it 24-21. The Vikings couldn’t respond, 25-21 Monticello.
Modaff said the victories in the third and fourth set resulted from momentum and team play.
“We cracked down on serve receive and we just started to be aggressive and brave and actually swing at the ball,” Modaff said.
In the final set the teams played to just 15 points.
It was a close game until North Branch pulled away 7-4, then 14-7, and finally 15-7. Monticello High School Activities Director, Gary Revenig said it was one of the best volleyball games he had seen in a long time.
“This was one of the most competitive volleyball games I’ve seen in my 10 years as activities director.” Revenig said. “Great sportsmanship by both teams, coaches, line judges, and officials. When the Mississippi Conference went to eight teams this is exactly what we envisioned.”
Modaff was proud to hear Revenig hold her team in such high regards.
“That’s what we want to see,” the coach said. “We can attribute that to our JO club in town and to kids who work hard in the off season. We’re starting to see real results from that and it’s really exciting.”
North Branch ended the regular season number one in the conference, 20-1 overall.
Monticello ended the regular season number two, 14-6-1 overall.
Volleyball played against Becker in a non-conference game on Tuesday, Oct. 8 and head to Sauk Rapids-Rice tonight at 7 p.m.