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Yellowjacket VB ready for postseason

Perham-The Perham Yellowjackets are entering the 2015 Section 8AA playoffs with a chip on their shoulder. That chip remains from a tough 3-0 loss to Thief River Falls in the 2014 Section 8AA Championship and a crushing 3-0 defeat to the Dilworth-...

Perham-The Perham Yellowjackets are entering the 2015 Section 8AA playoffs with a chip on their shoulder.

That chip remains from a tough 3-0 loss to Thief River Falls in the 2014 Section 8AA Championship and a crushing 3-0 defeat to the Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton Rebels on Oct. 19 to prevent them from winning the Heart O’Lakes Conference Championships.

The Yellowjackets enter the postseason with a 23-5 record, which earned them the No. 1 seed in the South Subsection of Section 8AA.

Being the No. 1 seed also brings the extra pressure of knowing that the target is on their back.

“Every team that is on the opposite side of the net is going to be gunning for us,” Perham Head Coach Eryn Moser said. “We have to be prepared both mentally and physically.”

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The Yellowjackets had won nine straight before falling to Roseau in the championship of their own tournament. The Yellowjackets finished the season dropping two of their final four contests, including the 3-0 loss to the Rebels.

“It was an eye opener,” Moser said. “It’s a disappointing situation and a feeling, but it’s also driven our girls to approach these next six practices with a different attitude and a better focus.”

The loss to DGF has definitely affected the Yellowjackets as they have ramped up the intensity in recent practices.

“It’s going really well. We are really intense in practice,” senior Maria Rutten said. “We are looking forward to our first playoff game to show people where we improved, how intense we will be and come out with fire.”

Instead of taking a day off after the loss, the Yellowjacket seniors insisted on practicing the next day. The Yellowjackets realize the target is on their back being a No. 1 seed, coming off a tough loss.

“We are really excited and working really hard,” senior Ella Von Ruden said. “We are coming in No. 1 in our subsection and we are excited about that.”

With intense practices, the Yellowjackets are also hoping to gather that form from the beginning of the season.

“We are really excited. We are going back to things in the beginning of the season,” Morgan Byer said. “We are trying to start off new because we didn’t finish so hot.”

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On the offensive side, one of the main keys for the Yellowjackets will be their ability to distribute the ball to their key hitters. The Yellowjackets have depth along the front line, that makes it tough for opponent’s to key in on.

“We have to use all of our hitters,” Byer said. “We kind of relied on Maria (Rutten) a lot. In DGF, it didn’t work. We need to move the ball a lot more.”

Moser echoed the sentiment and added that it’s a focus of the Yellowjackets heading into the playoffs.

“We know the teams that see us know who our guns are. They are going to key in on Maria,” Moser said. “We have used these practices this last week to have the other girls go hard. A lot of teams don’t know about some of these girls and I think by the end of the season, we are going to surprise a few teams.”

Another key the Yellowjackets have focused in on is their ability to limit their unforced errors. According to Moser, that the Yellowjacket’s biggest issue.

The Yellowjackets are seeking their seventh state tournament trip in school history, the first since the 1998 season.

Last year, the Yellowjackets advanced to the Section 8AA Championship, before falling to Thief River Falls, 3-0.

It’s something the Yellowjackets have kept fresh in their minds entering the 2015 postseason.

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 “It’s already been talked about two or three times in our practice sessions,” Moser said. “The feeling the girls had in the locker room last year at this time is still very fresh in their minds.”

The Yellowjackets avenged that loss in their season opener with Thief River Falls, yet have dropped games recently to the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the north, Roseau and DGF, respectively.

“It makes us realize how much harder we have to work.” Von Ruden said. “Everyone is going to think we are easier now, so we have to pick up our pace.”

The Yellowjackets open play with Staples-Motley in the first round on Oct. 29 at 7 p.m. at the Prairie Wind Middle School.

The quarterfinals continue on Friday, Oct. 30 at the home site of the higher seed. A Perham victory would set up a contest with Wadena-Deer Creek or Park Rapids.

In the northern part of the section, Roseau (27-4) earned the No. 1 seed. The Rams have won their last 15 straight, including a 2-0 victory over Perham. During that stretch, the Rams have dropped just three games.

DGF enters as the No. 2 seed in the north. They are 7-3 in their last 10 games and undefeated at home. The Rebels hold an 8-1 record against section opponents; their lone loss was to Perham on Sept. 29.

Thief River Falls earned the No. 3 seed in the north. They hold a 14-13 record overall, yet are just 3-4 against Section 8AA opponents. They opened the season with back-to-back losses to Perham and Roseau. Hawley earned the No. 4 seed in the north.

In the south, Pequot Lakes earned the second seed. The Patriots enter as a relative unknown amongst section opponents. The Patriots are 24-4 overall, with a 4-0 record against Section 8AA foes. Their section wins were all 3-0 margins over Wadena-Deer Creek, Staples-Motley, Crosby-Ironton and Park Rapids Area.

Barnesville earned the No. 3 seed, with a 20-7 record overall. They finished with a 3-2 record against section opponents, including a 3-0 loss to Perham. Park Rapids Area earned the fourth seed in the south.

It will mark the final postseason run for Rutten, Von Ruden, Byer, Alex Lubitz, Marina Reese, Amy Scheidecker and Jaci Schuett.

 “Their impact has been huge this postseason,” Moser said. “They have gained some experience from last year being in this place and being the underdog. They are approaching these practices with more determination and they are pushing the underclassmen to do the same.”

The Section 8A semifinals are set for Thursday, Nov. 5, with the championship game set for Saturday, Nov. 7 at sites to be determined.

 “We know how bad it was losing that game (last year) and getting that close to state,” Von Ruden said. “It makes us push harder this year.”

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