Two years ago, D.C. Everest was the final stumbling block in keeping the Bluejay volleyball team from state, and last year Merrill was upset in the first round and watched #2 seed D.C.E. make its way back to the big dance.
So it was more than a little satisfying when the Jays knocked off the Evergreens twice in the past week, once in Thursday’s Valley opener, and again while placing third in Saturday’s Everest Invite.
“One of our goals for the season is to be at the top of the conference; this is the first step,” MHS coach Steph Nelson said. “I knew that they were going to be a quality team, but the girls went out there and did exactly what they were supposed to do. My team is extremely smart, that is how they accomplished two big wins, by not only using their athleticism, but also their brains.”
The Bluejays topped the 4-time defending WVC champion Evergreens 25-10, 21-25, 25-11, 22-25, 19-17 in Thursday’s knock-down, drag-out affair.
“My setters were smart about where they were setting the ball,” Nelson said. “Offensively, the girls were hitting the ball well, but more importantly putting it in the right spots, and everyone on defense was ready.”
Leading the way were: Jess Sabey (21 k, 3 ac, 10 d); Lindsay Krueger (5 k, 19 as, 11 d); Brittany Grosskurth (19 a, 10 d); Kaylin Byer (19 d) Renee Sladek (11 k, 4 bl); Andi English (4 k, 3 a, 2 bl); Brianna Piepenbrok (4 k, 4 d); Jenna Zamzow (7 d); Sam Hojan (4 k, 2 bl).
The Bluejays knocked off both local foe Wausau East (25-17, 25-15) and also handled Menomonie (25-18, 25-10) in pool play.
But they had opened with a 25-13, 30-32, 15-12 loss to eventual champion Kimberly and fell 25-23, 19-25, 19-25, 25-19, 15-7 to last year’s sectional finalist Edgerton in the first medal round.
That set up a third-place match with the Evergreens, and Merrill prevailed 13-25, 25-23, 25-18, 25-22,
“The team played well for the most part,” Nelson said. “We had some down moments, but for the most part the weekend was a success. One of our goals is to take no lower than 3rd at every tournament and so far we’ve met the goal every time!”
Byer and Sladek were named to the all-tournament team.
Merrill stats were provided by: Sladek (31 k, 15 d, 18 bl); Sabey (46 k, 3 ac, 16 d); Krueger (23 K, 59 as, 46 d, 3 bl); Byer (5 k, 5 ac, 78 d); Piepenbrok (18 k, 5 as, 27 d); Grosskurth (55 as, 20 d0; Hojan (12 k, 5 d, 5 bl); English (7 k, 6 as, 6 d, 5 bl); Zamzow (9 d).