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Volleyball: Patriots defeat Lakers in Mid-State battle, 8-3A seeding implications inevitable in coming weeks

The Detroit Lakes volleyball team suffered a 3-0 loss against Pequot Lakes on Thursday night. Here's a look at where the Lakers stand in the Mid-State and Section 8-3A standings heading down the home stretch of the regular season.

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Detroit Lakes' Rylee Johnson, middle, and Helena Daggett, right, go up for a block in the first set during the Lakers' 3-0 loss against Pequot Lakes on Sept. 29, 2022 at Pequot Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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PEQUOT LAKES – The path to the Mid-State conference volleyball title has run through Pequot Lakes since 2019. After Thursday, that likely won’t change this fall.

The Patriots (13-1) swept Detroit Lakes (11-2) in the only meeting between the two teams this season. Pequot Lakes, the No. 2 ranked team in the Minnesota Volleyball Coaches Association polls, showed why it’s a contender to make a deep run in the Class 2A playoffs.

“They’re very good, hands down,” Detroit Lakes head coach Lynnsey Machakaire said. “They’re very mentally calm. They play a very steady game. They don’t go up and down very much.”

After a back-and-forth start to the first set, Pequot Lakes pulled away to a 22-16 lead. After Detroit Lakes went on a 4-0 run, Grace Hoffard forced set point with a kill before the Patriots strung together a series of acrobatic digs, leading to Maci Martini’s set-point kill.

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Detroit Lakes' Jalynn Gunderson goes up for a kill in the first set during the Lakers' 3-0 loss against Pequot Lakes on Sept. 29, 2022 at Pequot Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Despite losing momentum in the final two points of the first set, the Lakers jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the second frame. Blocks from Helena Daggett and Rylee Johnson forced a timeout. The lead grew to 14-8 before the Patriots sparked a 12-3 run to take a 20-17 lead.

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Machakaire pointed to the second set as an example of the Lakers having what it takes to compete with the top teams in the state.

“They want to compete, and they want this for themselves,” she said. “Even though it didn’t go our way tonight, they know what we need to do to be a winning team. It’s really on all of them coming together and lighting that fire under them where they’re all feeling like they’re supporting each other.”

“We started running into each other. We started miscommunicating. Our setter was making balls, and the hitter was hearing her or getting there. Then they’re looking around like, ‘Who was that for?’ It’s those slight miscommunications that we, as a team, really close off from one another out there. That’s the work we need to look at going forward.”

Pequot Lakes’ big run took the wind out of the Lakers’ sails. Martini recorded a block and an ace to finish the second set 25-22.

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Pequot Lakes' Maci Martini (11) celebrates the first set-point win in the Patriots' 3-0 win over Detroit Lakes on Sept. 29, 2022 at Pequot Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The third set started much like the first. Grace and Jalynn Gunderson each had kills to tie the set at 14-14 before the Patriots went on a 3-0 run thanks to back-to-back blocks from Hoffard and Isabel Larson.

The 3-0 run extended to 6-0 following a Laker timeout. Martini and Larson put home kills before Martini landed three straight aces to take a 24-15 lead. Hoffard clinched the sweep with a match-point kill.

“We need the adversity,” Machakaire said. “We can’t sweep everybody 3-0 and expect to get better from it. That doesn’t put us in a good position, in my opinion. We need to see what it means to lose. We need to see what’s happening when we’re unraveling mentally. That’s what will get us better for sections, and that’s what we need to focus on after this.”

Thursday was also a chance for the Lakers to play in a postseason atmosphere.

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“They put a lot of pressure on themselves for a game like this,” Machakaire said. “We’re the underdog here. Obviously, we wanted to come out here and execute. As soon as these kids don’t feel like they’re executing or doing anything right, they back off a little bit. They start second-guessing themselves. When that happens in a building with their fan base, it’s intimidating.”

Even in a loss to Class 2A’s third-best team in the QRF system, according to Minnesota-Scores, the Lakers slipped out of the top spot in the Section 8-3A standings after their rating dropped from just over 100 to 98.6 Rocori leads the section with a QRF rating of 100.3.

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Detroit Lakes' Grace Gunderson goes up for a kill in the first set during the Lakers' 3-0 loss against Pequot Lakes on Sept. 29, 2022 at Pequot Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

The Section 8-3A standings are QRF seeded, putting the Lakers as the No. 2 seed before any tiebreakers. If two teams fall within that season’s given tiebreaker margin, then the playoff seedings can flip despite one team having a lower or higher QRF score.

Because Rocori’s strength of schedule is more formidable in their last five games, the Spartans have a chance to beef up their QRF rating and get out of the tiebreaker margin. If the Lakers are within the tiebreaker margin, the top seed in the section will be decided by overall winning percentage. The Lakers currently hold an edge over the Spartans at .846 compared to .824.

While both teams will likely end up with home court through the first two rounds, it’s important for the Lakers to waste little time rebounding from a tough loss.

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The Detroit Lakes volleyball team celebrates a point in the second set during its 3-0 loss against Pequot Lakes on Sept. 29, 2022 at Pequot Lakes High School.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“It needs to come from my captains,” Machakaire said on who needs to lead the bounce back in the coming weeks. “Ava (Jones), Jalynn (Gunderson) and Grace (Gunderson), as well as those other seniors that lead without the title, have to want to fight. They have to push hard in practice, do the things we’re asking them to do and realize there are reasons we’re asking them to do them.”

PEQUOT LAKES 3, DETROIT LAKES 0

25-20, 25-22, 25-16

Aces: Ava Jones 1, Grace Gunderson 1

Kills: Jalynn Gunderson 16, Grace Gunderson 6, Rylee Johnson 2

Assists: Ava Jones 22

Digs: Ava Jones 13, Jalynn Gunderson 15, Grace Gunderson 8

Blocks: Helena Daggett 5, Grace Gunderson 3, Rylee Johnson 2, Sadie Stoering 2

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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