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Detroit Lakes stays hot on the road in 8AAA quarterfinal sweep over St. Cloud Tech

The Lakers took care of business in its Section 8AAA quarterfinal sweep over fourth-seeded St. Cloud Tech.

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Rylee Johnson (left) and Logan Frederickson rise for a block attempt in the second set of Detroit Lakes' 3-0 win over St. Cloud Tech on in the first round of the Section 8AAA tournament on Oct. 28, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)
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The start of the section playoffs is a chance for teams to wipe the regular-season slate clean and start fresh. That’s exactly what the Detroit Lakes volleyball team did on Thursday night.

The fifth-seeded Lakers (10-16) eliminated fifth-seeded St. Cloud Tech (8-15) in straight sets.

“This feels amazing,” sophomore Grace Gunderson said. “We were supposed to lose, but we came out and upset them. It was awesome.”

After pulling away to win the first two sets, the Lakers opened up a 15-4 lead in set three. However, with the Tigers’ season on the line, they gave one last push for a comeback. Tech brought the set within three with an 8-1 run. Detroit Lakes head coach Lynnsey Machakaire called a timeout to settle down her team in a big moment.

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Jalynn Gunderson splits to Tiger defenders for a kill in the second set of Detroit Lakes' 3-0 win over St. Cloud Tech on in the first round of the Section 8AAA tournament on Oct. 28, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

“In watching film on Tech, we noticed that every game they got better,” Machakaire said. “They get better every set. I wanted our girls to know that it isn’t over until it’s over. They’re not going to sit back and hand roll over for us on their home court. I needed to bring them in to just compose them down so they could do their jobs fundamentally right. We don’t need to be fancy to finish games.”

The Lakers put their foot on the gas to close out the sweep with a 25-19 third-set victory. Sophomore Rylee Johnson ended the match with a left-handed swat into the forearms of two Tech defenders for the win.

The difference between Detroit Lakes and Tech on Thursday night was the unforced errors or lack thereof for the Lakers. Without a missed serve and strong support play defensively, Detroit Lakes suffocated a struggling Tigers unit.

“I don’t think we missed a serve,” Machakarie said. “I expect our girls to serve 97% if they’re going to serve on my court. That’s just our expectation, and we work really hard on that. I’m really proud of what the girls did tonight. The motto on the back of their shirts is, ‘With each other, for each other.” That’s the way they played tonight.”

Tech had the upper hand early on. The Tigers opened the first set with a 4-0 run to pin the Lakers on their heels early. That’s when Grace Gunderson caught fire. She buried five of her 10 kills in the first frame to set Detroit Lakes with a 25-20 win.

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In the second set, it was Jalynn Gunderson who stole the show. She put home almost half of her team-leading 13 kills en route to a 25-18 set win. Grace and Jalynn Gunderson played nearly every point on Thursday night.

“They’re two phenomenal athletes,” Machakaire said. “They both can put the ball down, but they can also be very smart with the ball. That’s what we talked a lot about in practice. I love those big kills, but how do we make those decisions between scoring big or placing the ball in certain situations.”

Both Jalynn and Grace Gunderson are no strangers to making an impact on the court. Freshman Logan Fredrickson, however, notched a breakout game defensively with seven blocks.

“I was proud to see her stay away from the net,” Machakaire said. “She’s a freshman. We’re working on somebody controlling stuff with her. I didn’t care how many blocks she got tonight because she stayed out of the net. Her not giving up any net errors is what I was most proud of her for. When you stay out of the net, you’re able to get more of those blocks. I’m very proud of her performance.”

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Grace Gunderson said it was the defense that allowed the Lakers to settle in offensively and was blown away with the performance of the freshman middle hitter.

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Grace Gunderson puts home a kill in the second set of Detroit Lakes' 3-0 win over St. Cloud Tech on in the first round of the Section 8AAA tournament on Oct. 28, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

“Our defense was unreal tonight,” Grace Gunderson said. “We all played as a team. (Logan) was huge tonight. We needed her to get this win.”

“Defensively, they have to set up our offense. Otherwise, our offense can’t play,” Machakaire said. “Our passing was Phenomenal tonight for how we’ve been passing this season. This is the best passing I’ve seen all season. I told them this week that if we can’t pass, we can’t run these plays.”

Detroit Lakes is a better team on the road than at home, which is why Machakaire wasn’t too upset with losing a razor-thin tiebreaker margin for the fourth seed.

“If we would’ve won one more game in Fergus Falls last Thursday, we probably would’ve had a home game,” Machakaire said. “It was so close, but I really can’t complain because we’ve been playing so well on the road, and we got a win. Now we know we can go on the road in this section and take a team out on their home court.”

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The Detroit Lakes bench celebrates a third-set point on Oct. 28, 2021 in the Lakers' 3-0 win over St. Cloud Tech in the first round of the Section 8AAA tournament. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

The Lakers were quick to put their 9-16 regular-season record behind them. They knew the section tournament was a chance to prove many people wrong and showcase how good they could be when they put it all together.

“I was really proud of the girls because we worked so hard this week,” Machakaire said. “I know some people probably don’t appreciate this, but I’m not really worried about my regular-season record. We show up at sections, and both teams are 0-0. It’s whoever is going to show up and perform that’s going to win. Tonight, we showed we were ready to perform.”

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Olivia Clark-Burnette prepares for a serve in the second set of Detroit Lakes' 3-0 win over St. Cloud Tech on in the first round of the Section 8AAA tournament on Oct. 28, 2021. (Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune)

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALL
Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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