Cardinals capture District 8!

It's 1984 and the Luverne Cardinals volleyball team just won the district 8 championship... 


Luverne’s Volleyball Cardinals made believers out of District 8 coaches and followers by capturing the championship Tuesday. 

The Cardinals entered Region 2A volleyball competition last Saturday at Jackson, facing District 5 champ Wells-Easton in semifinal play. Westbrook, the District 7 champ, played Welcome-Memorial in the other semifinal game.

The winners played for the right to qualify for the state volleyball tournament Saturday night. Losing teams played in a consolation championship, all after the star-Herald went to press Saturday morning.

Luverne, seeded fifth in District 8, despite compiling a competitive record in the regular season, left no doubt who would come out on top by defeating four teams – Faith Christian, Edgerton, Pipestone and Fulda – by 2-0 scores.

We worked very hard to get there,” Luverne Coach Mary Jo Graphenteen said. “It was a total team effort, from the first round with Faith Christian through the final with Fulda.”

Tuesday’s district title game with the Raiders was an indication of how the Cardinals played throughout the tournament.

The Cards were embroiled in close games midway through the match, but retained their composure and claimed victory. Luverne won the title match by 15-9 and 15-5 scores.

Behind the serving of senior Nancy Dirks, Luverne rolled to a 7-0 lead in the first game. Fulda came right back and reeled off nine straight points to take a 9-7 lead, but Graphenteen felt the Cardinals were still in control.

“I don’t think the momentum really shifted that much,” she said. “We had it most of the time except for a few brief periods.” Luverne regained control of the game and tallied the final eight points for the win.

Fulda started quickly in the second contest, jumping out to a 5-0 lead. Once again, the Cards slowly fought back gained the lead and let Fulda make the catch-up mistakes.

“We didn’t put that many balls outside the court,” Graphenteen said. “Fulda had to play everything. They helped us out at the end, but that was partly due to our pressure.”

Luverne’s serving was not only accurate but aggressive, Graphenteen remarked. For the game, the Cards converted 41-44 serves for 93 percent.

“We worked very hard in the early games and were really up for the finals,” she said. “The girls were ready and played with great intensity.”

The Cardinals’ overall court play was also impressive. The team went 15-15 in tipping, 46-48 in hitting and 51-51 in setting. In addition, Luverne recorded 19 aces and committed only 17 errors, a season low.

Cardinal spikers Nancy Dirks and Missy Bollinger kept the Fulda defense on their toes with several crisp spikes. Graphenteen felt the setting play of Lucy Madtson, Lisa Ahrendt and Audra Huiskes assisted in their efforts. “Good sets produce good spikes,” she said.

Fulda’s entry into the finals was also a surprise, judging by the way opposing coaches seeded the Raiders. They were a notch behind Luverne in the sixth seed. In fact, all but one of the seeded teams were watching the tournament after the second night of play. Southwest Christian, the top seed, fell to Pipestone, the eighth seed. Second-seeded Jasper bowed out to Fulda, and fourth-seeded Edgerton lost to Luverne in the second round.

Slayton, the only top four seeded team to win a match (that against Hills-Beaver Creek), lost to Fulda in the semifinals.

In the semifinal match played November 3, Luverne eliminated Pipestone 16-14, and 15-12 in a hard-fought contest. Pipestone led 14-11 in the opener, but the Cards rallied for five straight points to take the game, three from Missy Bollinger.

Behind the serving of Wendy Cragoe, and the net play of Nancy Dirks, Luverne zoomed to a 5-0 lead in the second game. Pipestone came back to grab the lead, but behind six points from List Ahrendt and three more from Bollinger, Luverne clinched the match.

Tuesday’s District 8 championship marked the first time a Luverne team won the title since volleyball was initiated in 1974. Southwest Christian and Pipestone (with three titles each), Worthington, Edgerton and Jasper are the only other schools to win district 8 volleyball crowns.

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