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Business handled; Bluejays are Valley champs

The Bluejay girls locked down a WVC championship with a dominating performance over Wis. Rapids on Thursday, after letting Wausau East see a little daylight and then extinguishing it last Tuesday. 
Merrill completed an 11-1 Valley season to edge out D.C. Everest (10-2) for the title. SPASH (8-4) tipped Marshfield (7-5) on Thursday for third. East (2-10) and Rapids (1-11) finished in the cellar.
“I’m extremely proud of my team for all that they’ve accomplished this year,” MHS coach Kris Krug said. “At the beginning of the season I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year for Merrill Volleyball after losing five starters. I only have three girls from last year’s team that saw significant playing time.
“But they have been working hard and getting better as the season has gone on and that is what every coach strives for. I have been impressed with the team in their ability and drive to not give up. That was evident in the D.C.E. match on October Second when they were clearly out-playing us. Even though we lost the match, we battled back and won a set at game point, match point for them.
“There were many more hurdles that we stumbled over, but we kept getting up. It says a lot about the character of the Merrill volleyball Team. I’ve been harping about not having any leadership on the team, and lo-and-behold, my leaders have begun to evolve. We have bigger goals yet to achieve this season and will continue to work hard to make those happen.”
The Jays used 25-12, 25-9 and 25-11 sets to take care of Rapids.
Coming through for the Jays were: Emily Page (3 kills, 3 aces, 24 assists, 7 d); Anna Finnell (8 kills, 2 ac, 4 digs); Rylee Folz (5 k, 6 bl); Katie Zelinski (6 k, 3 bl); Morgan Wardall (4 k, 2 ac, 3 bl); Ali Zamzow (5 ac); Chelsey LaMonica (4 k); Mariah Turenne (3 k); Maddix Bonnell (2 ac, 6 d); Morgan Marnholtz (5 d).
East not least
Merrill defeated the Lumberjacks 25-19, 25-18, 25-14 in Tuesday’s Senior Night celebration. 
“It was a good way to honor our seniors tonight with a victory,” MHS coach Kris Krug said. “Although we had an opportunity to use some different line-ups, we need to keep our goals in sight and finish out the week with a win over Wisconsin Rapids and begin to prepare ourselves for the post season.”
Merrill grabbed an 11-5 lead in the opening set, but let East rally within 18-15 before taking charge, starting with a pair of Ali Zamzow aces. A quick-spike and service error let the Lumberjacks back in it at 21-18, but two East errors, an Emily Page ace and a Rylee Folz smash sealed it.
The Lumberjacks overcame a 4-0 start to grab an 11-8 lead in the second set, but the Jays ran off three straight then five consecutive, the latter run capped by three straight aces from Page. Katie Zelinski blocked and spiked back-to-back points to push it to 19-13. East hung around within 22-18, but a Hannah Marrier tip, and spikes from Folz and Mariah Turenne closed it out.
Merrill appeared to be taking total charge of the third set with an 8-0 start, but the Lumberjacks played pesky once again, pulling within 16-12 with a variety of spikes and MHS errors. The Jays took charge from there, with Morgan Marnholtz providing an ace and quick footwork to let a ball drop out of bounds and Folz, Anna Finnell and Morgan Wardall smashing home points to end it.
Production came from: Emily Page (4 ac, 24 as, 9 d); Folz (11 k, 3 d); Finnell (9 kills, 3 d); Morgan Wardall (8 k); Zelinski (4 k, 2.5 bl); Ali Zamzow (2 ac, 3 k); Hannah Marrier 4 k); Maddix Bonnell (14 d); Morgan Marnholtz (7 d); Lindsay Casper (7 d).
The second-seeded Jays received a bye to open regionals, and will host the winner of Eau Claire North (7) and Superior (#10) in Saturday’s 7:00 p.m. regional final.

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