Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
At least that’s true when wanting to get a match in during a high school volleyball season that had been bludgeoned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Thursday, the stakes became even higher, with just two days left before the season would come to a snapping halt due to that pandemic, Gov. Tim Walz’s orders.
So when Kasson-Mantorville coach Adam VanOort got an email at 4 p.m. Thursday from Chatfield coach Molly Orte-Thomas asking if his team would be available for a match in a couple of hours, VanOort didn’t think twice.
“I immediately texted (K-M Athletic Director Broc Threinen) to see if we could do it,” VanOort said. “Broc had done a lot of fast work for us this season.”
Chatfield’s scheduled opponent, Hayfield, had been hit with a case of COVID-19, news that didn’t get to Orte-Thomas until late Thursday afternoon.
K-M’s season schedule had been affected multiple times by the pandemic.
“About half the teams in our area were cancelling matches those last few weeks (because of COVID-19),” VanOort said.
But here was a chance to add a match rather than subtract one.
Threinen had already rearranged things twice last week as scheduled opponents Kenyon-Wanamingo and Pine Island both had to cancel on the KoMets due to COVID-19 cases. That brought on replacement matches with last-minute foes Minneota on Nov. 16 and a season-ender with Jordan four days later.
And now, here was Chatfield, looking for a match at the 11th hour on Thursday.
That sure sounded good to VanOort, whose program is among the best in the state and filled with a bunch of girls — and a head coach — who ache to compete.
The KoMets would do anything to pick up another match before it was too late, and Threinen was ready to do anything he could to make it happen.
“The girls are out for volleyball for a reason,” Threinen said. “They love to play, and they love to compete. And if you can sacrifice a couple of things to get them on the court, you do it. It feels good and it’s an awesome thing to get them out there and see them play the game they love.”
VanOort left the idea of a hasty trip to Chatfield up to his girls, who were about to head to the weight room to begin practice. None of them hesitated. They were all in. Threinen didn’t hesitate, either. He quickly arranged for a bus to transport them. By 5:15, they were all in it, passengers on the 36-mile drive to take on this Three Rivers Conference opponent.
Chatfield excitedly braced itself for what would be next.
“We knew those Kasson-Mantorville girls would be a really hard match for us,” Orte-Thomas said. “They are a Class AA team and ranked fifth in the state. It’s not a team we’d normally put on our schedule because of how good they are. But it worked out great that they wanted to play us. Everyone was there because we all just really wanted to get in another match.”
Kasson-Mantorville did prove to be too much, prevailing 25-16, 25-19, 25-10.
But Orte-Thomas wasn’t complaining. Her Chatfield girls enjoyed every minute of it.
“We played hard and lost in (three games), but we stayed right with them in the middle game,” Orte-Thomas said. “We were happy with that. It was a good atmosphere and everyone was there because we all just wanted to get in another match — their team and our team.
“It's been a weird year. We’ve just felt thankful for every practice and match we’ve gotten.”