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Gator Volleyball drops two in state tournament debut

 

Riley Gust hugs senior teammate Jacey Wojchowski (#4) after the Gator Volleyball team’s final match of the season– a 3-0 loss to the Legacy Christian Academy Lions in state tournament consolation semifinal action from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Gator player Kenzie Dahl (left) and a Legacy Christian Academy Lions player (right) hug Gator senior Aulona Jasiqi (center) after Jasiqi played her final match as a Gator volleyball player following the Gators’ 3-0 loss to the Lions in the state tournament consolation semifinals. Jasiqi, Jacey Wojchowski, and Greta Lee were the team’s three seniors. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Gator Head Volleyball Coach Stacy Dahl provides some direction to her players from the sideline during her team’s loss to the Legacy Christian Academy Lions in state tournament consolation semifinal action. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Jade Reese goes up for the kill attempt during the Gators’ 3-0 loss to the Legacy Christian Academy Lions in state tournament consolation semifinal action. (Photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The Gator Volleyball celebrates a block during its 3-0 loss to the Legacy Christian Academy Lions in state tournament action from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on November 12. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Hannah Bergsnev gets down in her ready position during the Gator Volleyball team’s 3-0 loss to the Legacy Christian Academy Lions in state tournament consolation semifinal action. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Gator senior Greta Lee tosses the ball up in the air while serving during the Gators’ 3-0 loss to the Legacy Christian Academy Lions in the Class A state tournament consolation semifinals on November 12 from Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The Gator Pep Band entertained the crowd before and during the Gator Volleyball team’s two matches at the state tournament. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The Gator student body cheers on its Gator Volleyball team during state quarterfinal action from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

The Gator Volleyball teams lines up for pregame introductions before taking on the Minneota Vikings in the quarterfinals of the Class A State Volleyball Tournament from the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on November 11. (photo by Ryan Bergeron)

Tears filled Gator Volleyball players’ eyes, Gator players hugged one another, team members of their opponent, the Legacy Christian Academy Lions, crossed their side of the court to the Gators’ side to share in the hugs. Eventually, players of both teams united to form a circle in prayer.

This all happened following the Gators loss to the Lions in the Class A State Tournament Consolation Semifinals on the Xcel Energy Center floor. It also brought an end to a historic Gator Volleyball season— one seeing the program capture its first ever section title and state tournament berth.

The Gators fell to the second-seeded and eventual state runner-up Minneota Vikings 3-0 (15-25, 13-25, 11-25) in the state quarterfinals on November 11 and the third-seeded and eventual consolation champion Lions 3-0 (13-25, 19-25, 22-25) on November 12 in the program’s debut state tournament appearance.

The Gators faced these two teams and fell to both at the Class A Showcase earlier this season.

“I just felt like we never really were playing our game down here and that’s okay,” Coach Dahl said. “But, hopefully, that just makes them hungrier, that when you get an opportunity for a redo against two teams that you’ve seen already this season, you need to kind of take advantage of those opportunities.”

This year’s Gator team includes three seniors: Aulona Jasiqi, Jacey Wojchowski, and Greta Lee. These seniors embraced their roles and Coach Dahl is sad to see them go.

“I’m super proud of all three of them. They worked hard, and they brought it every day,” Coach Dahl said. “… We’re really thankful that they brought it and stayed positive for their teammates, and were really great leaders.”

With these two losses, the Section 8A Champion Gators finished the season 29-5. Despite the season ending with two losses, Coach Dahl pointed out the many people who are proud of what they accomplished this season, from the coaching staff to the community.

“They did make history and that is super exciting. And that’s just hopefully a stepping stone for even greater things too,” Coach Dahl said. “They broke the seal and they did so much. And so we want that tradition of winning and tradition of this culture to keep going.”

Specifically, the coaching staff is proud of the work the players put into this season, but getting to Minnesota’s biggest high school volleyball stage showed them that other teams are working hard as well.

“That next level is to be competitive,” Coach Dahl said, “if you have the opportunity to be here again.”

Time will tell if the Gators return to state, but Coach Dahl wants the players returning to Gator Volleyball next season to remember this experience.

“I think they’re hungry, or I hope they’re hungry, because the work continues.”

To see the complete story, including inside looks into each match, read the November 17 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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