Champlin Park senior Ellie Schmidt (11) place a shot past Blaine's Clara Brown. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Blaine senior Natalie Schmitz (1) leaps to direct a shot between Champlin Park defenders Lily Riese (6) and Carly Gilk (7). Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Champlin Park senior middle blocker Claire Caswell didn't know a lot about a few of her newest teammates before the 2021 volleyball season got underway. But it didn't take long for freshmen Reese Axness and Carly Gilk and sophomore Lily Riese to make a favorable impression.
And now the young group is leaving its mark on the Minnesota high school volleyball community. After Wednesday's 25-19, 25-18, 25-17 victory over Northwest Suburban Conference rival Blaine, the Rebels are 10-1 overall and have climbed to third in the Class 4A coaches poll from Sept. 12 after being left out of the preseason poll.
Axness entered Wednesday's game second on the team in assists (147), just one behind senior Allie Kopp. Gilk started Wednesday as the Rebels' leader in kills (88) and second in blocks (13). Riese, with six blocks before adding a few more Wednesday, already gives coach John Yunker a steady presence in the middle and a solid player to complement Caswell, who came up with a number of run-stopping plays in the victory over Blaine (4-1, 2-1).
Blaine's Evelyn Thormodsgaard (6, left) gets a hand on a tip from Champlin Park sophomore Lily Riese. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Champlin Park coach John Yunker finally can take a breath. His team's 3-0 victory over visiting Blaine on Wednesday night capped an eight-game stretch over just seven days. Yunker is looking forward to having a couple of practices before the Rebels get back to the 2021 season on Sept. 20 against Northwest Suburban Conference rival Maple Grove.
The Rebels, who have climbed to No. 3 in the latest Class 4A coaches poll after starting outside of the preseason top 10, are now 10-1, 2-0. Wednesday's victory was Champlin Park's third in a row after a loss to No. 1-3A Marshall in last weekend's Southwest Minnesota Challenge.
Blaine, which had lost just one set in building a 4-0 record coming into Champlin Park's gym, fell to 4-1, 2-1.
Junior hitter Ella Kapus had nine kills and three blocks and senior hitter Natalie Schmitz had nine kills to lead the Bengals.
MN Volleyball Hub polls are for entertainment purposes only.