Spartans overcome obstacles in comeback win

Mayo avenges 2007 section final loss

By Donny Henn

Owatonna appeared to have all of the intangibles on its side in the championship match of the Section One, Class AAA volleyball tournament.

Rochester Mayo players knew what they were up against: The defending section champion, the Big Nine Conference champion, the tournament’s top seed and a veteran Huskies lineup featuring five seniors already committed to college programs.


Owatonna even brought a boisterous crowd advantage. Although the match was played in Rochester, the Owatonna band played and the blue-and-white clad Huskies fans outnumbered Mayo fans by at least 3-to-1.

But the underdog Spartans were undeterred.

"We knew that we could play with them, it was more of a mental obstacle for us to overcome," said Megan Schroeder, one of four seniors on Mayo’s roster.

Third seed Mayo showed its resolve and resiliency in a come-from-behind upset 3-2 win over Owatonna Saturday night at Mayo Civic Center Taylor Arena.

The Spartans came back from game deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 and prevailed, 14-25, 25-17, 10-25, 25-23, 15-11.

Mayo (21-9-1) bounced back despite a one-sided loss in the third game that saw the Spartans trail 17-4 at one point.

"We did feel like the momentum got away from us in the third game," said Mayo’s Brittany Looker. "We just took some deep breaths, calmed ourselves down and tried to get it back."

Mayo head coach Deb Frederick motivated her team with a rather spicy speech before the fourth game.


"I said to the girls, ‘You just got your butts kicked; what are you going to do about it? Are you going to take it?’" the coach revealed.

"Even though we kind of crushed them in the third game, they were able to come back from that," Owatonna coach Rod Nakagaki said. "I give Mayo a ton of credit for that. They never gave up."

Mayo built momentum in the fourth game, never trailing. Schroeder’s right-side kill was game point and gave the Spartans a 25-23 win.

The Spartans also never trailed in the fifth game. Bevy Lehman got it started with an ace serve, and a left-side kill by Laura Carlson quickly made it 2-0.

Mayo stretched its lead to

9-2 with Looker delivering three kills from the left side in quick succession. Owatonna got back within three points at 12-9, 13-10 and 14-11.

But Mayo won the match when Owatonna’s Courtney Lermon served the ball so far out of bounds that the Spartans didn’t have to think about making a play on it.

As Lermon collapsed in despair and her teammates circled to console her, the Mayo players celebrated like no Rochester volleyball team has in nearly 31⁄2 decades.


"I think the girls had so much momentum after that fourth game that it really carried us into the fifth game," Frederick said. "We were thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is our time, we can do this!’"

Laura Carlson starred for Mayo with 19 kills and 12 digs. Looker had 16 kills and got hot in the fifth game, helping the Spartans seal the win. Schroeder had 14 digs and four kills and Lehman had 22 digs and six kills. Brittini Hoosier ran the Spartans offense with 40 set assists.

Also for Mayo, eighth-grader Rachael Doll had eight blocks in just her second varsity match.

Nakagaki said he was impressed with Mayo. Five of the eight seniors on his roster have already committed to playing college volleyball, the most ever, he said.

"I think both teams came in with a lot of confidence and both teams played well; we don’t have anything to feel badly about," Nakagaki said.

"Deb (Frederick) has a great program going here. They’ve been very close for many years, and tonight they did it. Tonight was Mayo’s night," he said.

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