The Watertown-Mayer volleyball team knows that Thursday night's matchup with Concordia Academy was not their best showing of the season. Stepping on to the stage of the Class AA State Tournament, the Royals could not get much going in a 3-0 loss (25-19, 25-18, 25-12).
“It's disappointing that we stepped on this stage - we earned our way to be here, we didn't get it handed to us - and we go out there and just didn't step up to the plate,” coach Andrea Raser saud. “It's frustrating because if you've watched us this season, that is not our game.”
But the positive part about playing a sub-par game is that the Royals are quickly putting the loss behind them.
“We just need to shake off tonight and just go get it tomorrow, not think about what happened,” Paige Thibault said. “A clean slate, a new start tomorrow and [we] go play our game.”
The Royals had to battle through slow starts to each of the three sets. It was a fight to stay positive and for one player, it was just a fight to stay in the game. Kate Thibault, who has the most digs in the state this season, laid it all out on the court. The constant dives to the court took a toll on her, but she finished the match and led the team with 14 digs.
“She's very mentally strong,” Paige Thibault said of her sister. “I know she was really really hurting in the beginning of the second match. She hurt her hip and I just told her to breathe through it and I believed that she could do it and she did it and stayed in the match even though she was in a lot of pain. I was really proud of her for that.”
Even thought the Royals were frustrated with their performance, there was a bright spot. Ashley Olson was a force to be reckoned with in the middle. She finished with five kills and a pair of blocks, but the sophomore loomed larger than what the stat sheet says.
“Ashley 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, and unfortunately the team didn't back her up in that. [She is] somebody who has been working really hard all year to get consistent, be the most consistent player on the court. It's frustrating because imagine what would have happened if we were all there tonight.”
With another match in 24 hours, the Royals are trying to get back to their winning ways and excitement.
“We need to step up, we need to get our energy back,” Madison Peter said. “We just need to play, play ball and be happy when we get a point, celebrate more, just get excited and be proud that we're here.”
Watertown-Mayer meets with a familiar opponent Friday at 5 p.m., when they face fellow Wright County Conference team Annandale.
“How ironic that you're going to play a conference rival at the state tournament,” Raser said. “No matter what, we just have to go out and have fun and play our game, not settle for being here. I'm sick of just being here, lets go do something about it.”
The Royals defeated Annandale twice this year, 2-0 and 3-1 in early September, now they face the Cardinals in an elimination game at the Xcel Energy Center. The players and coaches are hoping that history of wins over Annandale keeps going, while a different part of history changes. In their last two state tournament appearances, the Royals have lost both games at the tournament. This year they are looking to earn a victory.
“It's not like there is a curse on us, we just have to show up and play,” Raser said. “Our downfall in the past tournaments - they played well the first day. Today we played horrible, so I think we're on to something new here and that means tomorrow, instead of shutting down tomorrow, we're going to turn it on and play awesome.”
Watertown-Mayer (25-7) (Kills-aces-blocks) - Paige Thibault
9-0-1; Ashley Olson 5-0-2; Kailey Olson 3-0-4; Ella Lynch 2-0-4; Faith
Unglaub 2-0-1; Kate Thibault 1-0-0; Totals 22-0-6.0. (Assists) -
Natalie Ernhart 14. (Dig leaders) - Kate Thibault 14; Paige Thibault 9