The Cook County Vikings won their third tournament this season look strong towards end of season.
BY TJ SUPER
Cook County News Herald
The Cook County Vikings just keep on rolling. After back-to-back losses dropped the Vikings to 2-2 on the season, the Vikes have rattled off 13 straight wins, including two tournament titles.
The Vikings welcomed the Barnum Bombers to town for a great Polar League match-up. The five Viking seniors were honored before the game and all were given a water bottle with team picture on it and flowers. The seniors are Ashley Deschampe, Bekah Laky, CeCe Olsen, Sarah Fagerman, and Michaela Buchheit; all five started the game, along with junior Ali Iverson.
Barnum came out firing, taking a quick 6-3 lead and maintaining that three point lead throughout the game. Passing errors plagued the Vikings, while Sage Miletich served up a couple of aces to get the Bombers going. The Vikes were able to scrap along and keep it close, pulling to within one point, trailing 21-22.
Bekah Laky toed the line and aced the Vikings to their first tie of the game. Another ace down the line, gave the Vikings their first lead. A timeout by Coach Newman to talk about serve receive calmed down the Bombers and they easily picked up Laky’s serve. On the other hand, they weren’t prepared to deal with the right swing of Deschampe, and she lasered back-to-back kills to give the Vikings a game 1 win. The win was a microcosm of the regular season, with Laky and Deschampe at times carrying the team to victory.
The momentum was on the Vikings side as game 2 kicked off, but the Bombers jumped out again to an early lead. It didn’t take the Vikes as long to regain their stride, though, and they quickly overtook the lead. Ali Iverson played big at the net and then continued to rack up points with her serve. The Bombers played scrappy and made the Vikings work for their points, but struggled to mount a formidable attack. The Vikings pulled out the 25-17 win and looked for the sweep.
In fear of sounding like a broken record, the Vikings once again started the third game slow. In what may be a concern for the Vikings coaching staff, the girls have been coming out the gate slow lately, a trait they don’t want to take into playoffs. The Bombers jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the Vikings came storming back. Quick sets by Laky to Morrin, Iverson, and Deschampe led the charge and brought the teams to a tie at 16. An Iverson smash got returned but she quickly jumped back up and put it down for a point. It was a lead the Vikings wouldn’t relinquish as they pulled out the 25-22 win. Although the game was won 3-0, the Bombers played a tough match, going blow for blow with the Vikings on their home court.
The Vikings made their shortest road trip of the year when they traveled to Silver Bay for a rematch of an earlier Viking win. The Mariners came out with fire and the Vikings, once again, struggled from the start. Marina Carter led Silver Bay, with nicely placed tips and a couple of blocks to put the Vikes on their heels. It was too much for the sluggish Vikings and the Mariners pulled out the 25-19 win.
The set loss, which was only the 8th set lost of the year, motivated the Vikings and got them rolling. Deschampe and Laky both started picking up balls that they weren’t in the first game, leading the Vikings with 22 and 18 digs, respectively, to give them more scoring opportunities. CeCe Olsen motivated the Vikings, too, when she laid it all out on the line by diving into the bleachers for a loose ball. Although she was in obvious pain, she shook it off and went out on the court and kept playing. The Vikes took advantage of those extra opportunities and gutsy performances and turned them into points and eventually wins. They rallied back for a game two 25-21 win, a game three 25-18 win, and a final convincing 25-16 win. The 3-1 win moved the Vikings record to 12-2 and a very impressive 6-2 record in the Polar League.
The Vikings played in their final tournament of the year, traveling to Two Harbors for the 5th year in a row. The Vikings were going in as the favorite, with a solid record this season along with the swagger of winning the tournament the previous two years.
The Vikings got their first test from the host and found themselves in a tightly contested battle. The Agates battled the groggy Vikings but the girls were able to eventually pull it out 25-21, 26-24. In their other pool play game, they met the Proctor Rails. The Vikes didn’t waste any time in this one, jumping all over the Rails and never looking back. The Vikings nailed down the win 25-7, 25-11 and advanced to the championship game to take on the Eveleth-Gilbert Bears.
The Vikings faced off against the Bears for the third year in a row in the championship game and were hoping for the same outcome. In a hot, humid gym, the already worn down girls played with aggression and urgency to start off well. The result of the sharp passing, crisp setting, and nice play at the net was a rather easy 25-18, 25-18 win. The victory completed the three-peat and moved the Vikings record to 15-2. With only 3 matches to go before playoffs begin, the Vikes will look to fine tune their game as they make another push towards what will hopefully result in the Section 7A championship.
Cook County def. Barnum 25-22, 25-17, 25-22 —B: Sage Miletich 12D, 5AS; Karianna Duesler 19SA, 12D; Allainie Hanek-Siltanen 11K, 12D; M.J. Anderson 5K. CC: Ali Iverson 9K, 11D; Ashley Deschampe 10K, 22D; Sarah Fagerman 11D; Bekah Laky 11SA, 19D.
Cook County def. Silver Bay 19-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-16 — SB: Marina Carter 14K, 8B; Alicia Nopola 9K, 4B; Taylor Guzzo 24SA, 5AS. CC: Ali Iverson 9K; Ashley Deschampe 17K, 22D; Bekah Laky 21SA, 18D.
Two Harbors Tournament
Cook County def. Two Harbors 25-21, 26-24
Cook County def. Proctor 25-7, 25-11
Championship game – Cook County def. Eleveth-Gilbert 25-18, 25-18