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Prep Volleyball Division 4 State Notebook: Freshman Dorn comes up big in first varsity action as a part of McDonell's runner-up run
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Prep Volleyball Division 4 State Notebook | McDonell Macks

Prep Volleyball Division 4 State Notebook: Freshman Dorn comes up big in first varsity action as a part of McDonell's runner-up run

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LITTLE CHUTE — Aubrey Dorn’s introduction to varsity volleyball was swift and abrupt.

But the McDonell freshman came through with three solid performances in her first varsity matches to help the Macks bring home a silver ball after falling to Catholic Central in straight sets in Saturday evening’s Division 4 state championship game.

The 5-foot-10 middle blocker Dorn had not stepped foot on the floor during a varsity matchup until the sectional final against Turtle Lake, when she learned the night before she’d be active and playing after a COVID-19 quarantine move elsewhere on the team.

Dorn had three solo blocks and a kill in McDonell’s sectional championship victory over the Lakers and followed it up with more solid play on Saturday, notching two kills in the semifinal win against Prentice and a kill and block assist against the Hilltoppers.

“She was put in a very hard spot, and she was able to mentally fight off the nerves and fight off the big moments that were happening,” McDonell coach Kat Hanson said of Dorn.

“The team around her was very good as well as far as talking with her and communicating with her (and) simplifying the game for her.

“She lived up to the big moment for sure.”

Dorn’s teammates said the freshman understandably had some nervousness early on, but she was able to work through that and they were proud of what she was able to do in her first taste of varsity action.

“I would see a lot of bravery in her,” senior Kate Roth said of Dorn. “She was pretty scared, and we just told her she would do good and hyped her up and told her it was OK if she made a mistake and she would get by it.”

“I think we’re all just really proud of her for stepping up the way that she did and doing as well as she did with the circumstances the way they are,” senior Sidney Rice added.

Senior legacy

Seniors Maggie Craker, Ella Haley, Rice, Roth and Samantha Wirtz suited up for the final time for McDonell at Saturday’s state tournament.

The veterans were key parts of the team, contributing with their play on the court as well as their leadership off it amid the unprecedented circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The group help guide the program back to state for the first time since 2010 and helped lead the Macks to a trophy, the first for McDonell in volleyball since winning the 2009 Division 4 state title.

Rice said the seniors will remember this year’s team for the closeness they have and the friendships made.

“Some of us play other sports, but I really think volleyball is the sport that brought us all together and made us feel like one whole team,” Rice said.

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“I think all the memories come from stuff outside of volleyball,” Craker added. “You don’t remember the drills or the plays that you made. You remember the team dinners and the stupid stuff we did at practice and just the memories.”

That legacy could also be seen in future years as youngsters not yet in the program watched McDonell make a return to the big stage and the seniors hope those younger players are motivated to get their themselves in the coming years.

Know your foe

The Macks had a history with their semifinal foe from Prentice.

McDonell defeated the Buccaneers in a nonconference matchup at the end of the regular season and had a gameplan going into the contest to serve aggressively to make setting up big kill attempts tougher.

Ella Haley and Kait Ortmann had five as apiece with Maggie Craker adding a pair as the Macks kept the Buccaneers offense from ever shifting into high gear for a prolonged period of time.

“We served really aggressively, which was our gameplan to take them out of their offense,” Hanson said. “They’re a very offensive team and we knew that if we served well we could get them more off-speed shots and we could defend that a lot easier.”

In other local action

McDonell was the only local team to earn victory at their respective state tournament.

Fellow Western Cloverbelt Conference squads Fall Creek and Osseo-Fairchild both fell in their respective Division 3 state semifinal games. The fourth-seeded Thunder lost in straight sets to Howards Grove (25-11, 25-13, 25-16) and the third-seeded Crickets lost to Waterloo (25-17, 25-17, 25-22).

Big Rivers Conference champion River Falls fell in its Division 1 semi to Burlington (25-16, 28-26, 25-21) and Heart O’North champ Saint Croix Falls was also defeated in the Division 2 semifinals to Luxemburg-Casco (25-13, 25-22, 27-25).

Hello again

The McDonell and Catholic Central schools have become used to facing each other at state tournaments.

Saturday’s matchup marked the first time the two programs squared off in volleyball, but they have seen plenty of each other in other team sports at state.

Most recently the McDonell boys basketball team defeated Catholic Central 63-41 in the 2016 Division 5 state championship.

Prior to that the Macks have faced Catholic Central five times at the state baseball tournament and once in the 2009 Division 7 state football championship game. The Hilltoppers have won four of the five baseball meetings and defeated McDonell 27-15 at Camp Randall Stadium in the football matchup.

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