Junior setter Izzy Ashbury (11) blocked a shot by St. Michael-Albertville's Samantha Palmer (5) during Champlin Park's five-set victory in the Class 3A Section 5 championship. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
When the proverbial pushes came to shoves, it was Emma Schmidt who delivered the final blow. Her section final match-clinching kill capped a brilliant fifth set for the junior.
It also served to highlight something else — that Champlin Park isn’t going anywhere.
The Rebels lost plenty of seniors from last year’s state runner-up squad, including 2016’s Ms. Volleyball, Sydney Hilley. So there was maybe a bit to prove for the Rebels in 2017. And after a five-set, gut-it-out section championship win over St. Michael-Albertville, consider Champlin Park validated.
“We got a lot of people doubting us because of all the seniors last year, but we knew we were just as good,” Schmidt said. “We knew we could fight, if we pushed hard enough, we could make it to state again. Hopefully we’ll do well at state like we have in the past. Yeah, it’s important to us, we’re really excited.”
It’s the fourth straight state appearance for a Rebels squad who finished ranked No. 4 in the Class 3A coaches poll, after a fifth-place ranking in the preseason poll. But it took work to hold off the Knights in the Section 5 title match, and work to build a 27-4 record.
“Just proud of the girls, the way they responded,” Champlin Park coach John Yunker said. “There were doubts by everybody, probably inside a little bit as well this year, whether we could do it or not because of [the losses to] graduation. They just battled the whole year. It’s been a couple years in a row, and that’s great, but every year is special.”
Champlin Park, the top seed in its section, led the match 2-0 in a close first two sets, but No. 3 seed St. Michael-Albertville won the third and fourth to force a fifth set. But then the Rebels started going to Schmidt, who has been one of their top offensive options this year.
Schmidt finished with 25 kills, and in one rally in the fifth, was set for swings on three straight chances, before finally getting one to fall. Instead of celebrating, she just looked relieved the rally was over. She gave plenty in the match, and had to duck out at one point to throw up behind the bench.
“I tried to celebrate, I tried to keep my energy up, but yeah, it was definitely tiring,” Schmidt said. “Wasn’t feeling well obviously, because the outcome of that was me throwing up. I knew it was coming to me, and they told me it was coming to me, so I knew. I just did all I could for the team and for myself.”
Fellow junior Izzy Ashburn was also big for the Rebels, with 37 assists and 11 kills. Jordan Stalpes, Hannah Prasky and Sami Hilley helped spread their swings around in the first four sets.
“Some of that too was, they were doing everything they could to stop [Schmidt], so we tried to make sure we went some other places,” Yunker said. “It got to the point where it’s just, if we’re gonna go down, we’re gonna go down swinging with Emma a bit here.”
It was just the second five-set match the Rebels had to play all year, but when it counted, they found the guts to get themselves back to state.
“I just think we pulled it out in the end because we believed in each other and just knew exactly what we had to do to fight to the finish,” Schmidt said.
Emma Schmidt (3) tried to power a shot past St. Michael-Albertville's Grace Mauersberger. Schmidt had 25 kills in Champlin Park's victory. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
Champlin Park, the No. 1 seed in Class 3A, Section 5, beat No. 3 seed St. Michael-Albertville in a five-set thriller Thursday in the section final at Osseo, 25-21, 30-28, 23-25, 22-25 and 15-12. It secured the Rebels a fourth-straight state berth.
Ella Schmidt, who tallied the clinching kill, was huge for the Rebels in the fifth set. Schmidt and Champlin Park were down 9-7 before finishing the set on a 8-3 run.
The Rebels led 2-0 in the match after an exciting 30-28 second set. The Knights rebounded with two straight wins to stave off elimination.
St. Michael-Albertville (26-5) senior setter Lexie Nelson led the Knights with 38 assists and added seven kills. Syra Tanchin had 13 kills and Samantha Palmer tallied 11.
Champlin Park’s Schmidt finished with 25 kills, while Izzy Ashburn, who had 11 kills, led in assists with 37. Jordan Stalpes contributed 10 kills in the win.
Champlin Park improves to 27-4 and awaits state seeding.
Champlin Park's Jordan Stalpes (13) led a cheer after the Rebels scored a point during their five-set victory over St. Michael-Albertville. Photo by Mark Hvidsten, SportsEngine
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