Hailey Tihlarik and Sydney Forbord

Once Panthers, now Raiders

2018 Onamia High grads, Hailey Tihlarik and Sydney Forbord, who starred on the Panthers volleyball teams recently concluded playing two seasons for the Central Lakes College Raiders where they helped their team win the conference title and finish fifth in the National Northern Junior College Athletic Association Division III Tourney.

One may think the Minnesota Vikings comeback victory over the Denver Broncos a few weeks ago was something special, but that was nothing compared to the Central Lakes College girls volleyball team’s resurrection from the dead this past fall.

The CLC Raiders started the season with a record of 10-2 and were destined to win their conference championship with ease when they were delivered a devastating jolt. A paperwork fiasco concerning a couple of transfer athletes forced the governing body of the Northern Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) to nullify all 12 matches heading into the second half of the season.

Every player on the CLC team knew they had their backs to wall and would have to run the tables the remainder of the schedule if they had any chance of winning the conference title and qualifying for post season play.

Yet that is precisely what this gritty band of young athletes did.

Down 0-12 after the penalty, the Raiders completed the season winning 18 of their final 19 matches (the only loss was to a D-II school in a tournament) which earned them a conference championship and a berth in the junior college national tournament play-down.

The Raiders hosted and won the region tourney allowing them to be one of 12 region winners to qualify for the National NJCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament staged in Rochester, Minn. The Raiders were seeded fifth among the 12 teams, and that is exactly where they finished in the nation following tournament play, completing one of the most amazing comeback seasons in local sports history.

Two of the outstanding players on the CLC team this fall were 2018 Onamia High grads Sydney Forbord and Hailey Tihlarik. The girls finished their allotted two-year stint with the CLC team this season, and both are still undecided as to where the next few years will take them.

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