One of Wisconsin’s finest prep volleyball tournaments prior to WIAA state took place down at UW-Whitewater again this weekend, but once again both Lincoln County squads figured very prominently in the outcome.
It may not have been a surprise that Tomahawk-returning the complete squad that qualified for state last year-would finish as high as third place.
The same can’t be said for a Merrill team decimated by graduation that still found a way to grab the runner-up spot in the 27-team tourney just days after winning the Marshfield Tournament.
“Getting second at the UW-W tournament was great as well,” new MHS coach Steph Nelson said.
“The championship game started out well, we were getting some kills, but they had two girls who hit extremely hard. The team did their best and ended up making some great plays, but they hit so hard that it was hard to get to every ball. North was also extremely good at digging; we were getting some great opportunities, but they were making some great defensive plays to save them.
“It’s early in the season, we still have some things to work on, it can only get better from here!”
Merrill fell 25-14, 25-15 in the finals to Lakeside Lutheran, while Tomahawk knocked off Appleton North 25-22, 25-22 in the third-place match.
The MHS and THS girls shared a seeding pool for #1 pool teams with Madison LaFollette Friday night. The Jays captured a 25-14, 25-23 match over Tomahawk, but lost 19-25, 25-19, 15-13 to LaFollette. The Hatchets handled LaFollette 25-11, 25-23.
“We lost a match early on in the tournament that we really shouldn’t have lost (to Kenosha Bradford 25-20, 21-25, 15-12),” Nelson said. “The girls bounced back and played great through the rest of the day. We played Tomahawk for our 2nd last match of the night and the girls played great.”
Merrill also needed a one-game challenge match victory of 15-7 over Portage to qualify for Saturday’s 10-team Gold Pool. On Saturday, the Bluejays opened with a loss, but defeated Catholic Central 2-1, Bradford 2-0, Appleton North and others to earn a first-place chance with Lakeside.
“The next day started out rough, our first match we lost and just seemed like we were still sleeping,” Nelson said. “The next match didn’t go too much better, but we at least won. Our third and fourth matches of the day went the way that they should; we played well and did our jobs.”
Tomahawk had dispatched Beloit Memorial and Central Wis. Christian in the opening pool, then knocked off Appleton North and Oak Creek in the second level, all by 2-0 scores. On Saturday, THS fell 2-1 to LaFollette, and 2-0 (25-23, 25-21) to eventual champ Lakeside. The Hatchets rallied with 2-0 blankings of Waterford and Brookfield East, although a win over Lakeside would have meant an All-Lincoln County final.
“We learned a lot about our strengths and weaknesses and what we need to work on,” THS coach Jen Pfannerstill said. “When we were in system we looked great and really kept other teams on their heels guessing. When we were out of system, we didn’t dig as many balls as we should have and ended up making some early season errors. All in all, though, it was a good weekend and we are a better team now than we were at the start of the weekend.”
Merrill’s Jess Sabey and Tomahawk’s Anna Sudbury were named to the All-Tournament Team.
Tomahawk stat leaders included: Kaitlin Doughty (92 k,