Blaine’s second-place finish at the Apple Valley Invitational volleyball tournament last weekend provided hope to a team in need.
The third-ranked Bengals were swept by No. 7 Osseo on Sept. 10 and then, two days later, lost standout middle blocker Taylor Morgan to a torn ACL. Coach Celeste Gorman called Morgan’s injury “devastating” but encouraged her team to stay the course.
“She is not an athlete you want to lose — ever,” Gorman said. “But we have to deal with the circumstances we have. We want to keep playing volleyball our way and we still have amazing players.”
Last season, a veteran Blaine team took a 29-1 record and the No. 2 seed into the Class 3A state tournament and finished third. A new-look roster this fall figured to test the Bengals’ patience and persistence.
Gorman said losing a veteran such as Morgan “doesn’t mean we start over. If anything, it kick-started that process because we need to welcome in a new middle hitter.”
Senior Cadence Daniels assumed Morgan’s duties. Gorman called her “unfazed by the bigness of it all. She’s an in-the-moment type of player.”
She is surrounded by talented players. Junior Rebecca Hawkins had a strong offseason, earning tournament most valuable player honors as the Northern Lights’ 16-2 team won a USA Division national championship.
Senior Lydia Dimke, a Star Tribune first-team All-Metro selection last season, stepped up in the six matches since Morgan’s injury. Dimke, an outside hitter and setter, notched 75 kills at a .392 efficiency. She added 11 aces, 78 set assists, 52 digs and eight blocks.
The team played its way into the championship match in Apple Valley, where it fell to top-ranked Eagan.
“We put our best foot forward in Apple Valley, and it was a great team confidence builder,’’ Gorman said. “The challenge now is to maintain.”
Boys’ soccer standouts
• Blaine senior forward Jason Scheeler scored a goal and added an assist in a 2-0 victory against Maple Grove on Sept. 17. Two nights later he scored a goal in a 3-0 victory against Park Center. On Saturday he got an assist as the Bengals topped Minneapolis South 2-1.
• Elk River/Zimmerman senior forward Storm Heyer scored some timely goals last week. He got the only goal in a 1-0 victory against Park Center on Sept. 17. The Elks beat Osseo 2-1 two nights later and Heyer tallied both goals, his second with 40 seconds remaining in the game. Heyer entered this week ranked No. 7 all-time among goal-scorers and ninth in career points at the school.
A winner at Brooklyn Center
Brooklyn Center’s defeated Spectrum of Elk River 20-14 on Friday, the Centaurs’ first football victory in 17 games covering nearly two full years.
David La Vaque • 612-673-7574