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Danecdotes: Team chemistry resulting in success for Tigers

With a 3-0 victory over Northome-Kelliher on Friday, Oct. 5, the Pine River-Backus volleyball team improved its overall record to 18-1. The team lost its first game of the season to Cannon Falls. Since then, they have only made changes to the win...

PR-B's Bailey Wynn tips the ball in the Tigers' win over the Melrose Dutchmen during the Pequot Lakes volleyball tournament Saturday, Sept. 8.
PR-B's Bailey Wynn tips the ball in the Tigers' win over the Melrose Dutchmen during the Pequot Lakes volleyball tournament Saturday, Sept. 8. Ashley Smith / Echo Journal Correspondent

With a 3-0 victory over Northome-Kelliher on Friday, Oct. 5, the Pine River-Backus volleyball team improved its overall record to 18-1.

The team lost its first game of the season to Cannon Falls. Since then, they have only made changes to the win column of their record - all of this after a state tournament appearance the season before, with every athlete from that team returning for this season.

A primary reason for this success, if you ask the athletes, is communication and teamwork, which is coming easily this season.

"We all get along so well together," senior Bailey Wynn said. "There is no drama or anything like that. We stay together after practice and work for a half hour. I think the fact that we get along so well makes it easier for us to play together, get better together and be successful."

The Tigers are also succeeding by keeping their focus on the next game, as opposed to looking toward the postseason.

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"I think we are just working as a team really well," junior Emma Barchus said. "Everyone is really playing their best volleyball ... I didn't even realize we were on such a win streak. We have just been going into each game worrying about that one game."

The team of 14 girls, coming off one of the best finishes in team history, have done their best to improve an already solid team, working out together in the mornings before school and often staying an additional half hour after practice. No only have they improved physically through this routine, but teammates say they have greatly improved their team chemistry as well.

"If I compared my relationship to the girls from last year to this year, it has enhanced so much," senior Gabby Rainwater said. "I don't even feel like the younger girls are younger. We communicate well and respond to each other well. We know each other's personality much better this year."

While the team is anchored by its five seniors - Wynn, Rainwater, Alyssa Semmler, Anna Downie and Ellie Smith - a few juniors and all-conference sophomore Rylie Hirschey, the team has felt contributions from virtually everyone on the roster during its win streak.

"A lot of the younger girls have stepped up in key moments," Barchus said. "When we need them to, they have really been able to come off the bench and play."

During their 18-game win streak, the Tigers have rattled off impressive victories against a number of successful teams, including a close 3-2 victory over Pequot Lakes in the PR-B gym. Perhaps the team's top performance came against Park Rapids - the 11th-ranked team in Class 2A at the time - when they won 3-1 on Tuesday, Sept. 11.

"That might be my favorite (of the season)," Rainwater said. "We just played so well together."

The Tigers have just three games and one tournament left before the postseason begins. While expectations are high, the athletes simply hope to be able to say they gave their best effort in each and every game.

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"I don't want to say that we expect to get back to state, but I really hope we can get that far," Rainwater said. "I know we are completely capable. We just have to be tough and out-work the other teams."

As for the team's five seniors, they hope to get the most out of a fun, successful season they admit is going too fast.

"This season is something I have really cherished," Wynn said. "I remember being in eighth grade and thinking 'I have time,' but now that it's here I'm wondering 'where did that time go?' I'm holding on to every little thing and hoping we can make our season as long as possible, because I'm not really ready to let it go yet."

The Tigers face Blackduck on the road Thursday, Oct. 11.

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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