Jeremy Ratliff & Kelly O’Day
Foto News Sports Staff
The Merrill varsity volleyball squad continued their juggernaut run in the WIAA post-season, with a 3-0 dunk of Medford (25-12, 25-11, 25-7), staking their claim as regional champs at the MHS Field House on Saturday.
“We played like I knew we could,” commented coach Kris Krug. “Offensively, we did not hold back and everyone contributed tonight whether hitting, digging, or serving!
“I felt as if we were in control the whole match. That is where we need to be, to beat the teams to come. We need to hold onto that intensity and build on the confidence we gained from tonight’s victory!
The 17th ranked (MaxPreps) ladies (36-6-1) will square off with the West Salem Panthers (17-9) in Stevens Point in WIAA Sectional Semi-Final competition on Thursday.
Leaders: Anna Finnell (16k); Rylee Folz (10k); Morgan Wardall (8k, 1 ac); Ali Zamzow (3ac, 10d); Emily Page (2ac, 14 d); Chey Pyka (1ac); Bonnell (12d).
Jays rule the roost
Thursday’s WIAA regional semi-final brought some drama into the MHS Fieldhouse, but the Bluejays girls quickly shut it down to capture a 3-1 triumph over Tomahawk.
The Hatchets jumped out with a 25-21 triumph, but Merrill turned a page at the start of the second set, using a mixture of powerful and smart play to grab the next three sets, all by 25-17 scores.
“Tomahawk came to play as we knew they would,” MHS coach Kris Krug said. “We struggled with Hanna Meyer in the first set and couldn’t get a block on her.
“Once the blockers got set, the game changed. Both teams served aggressively — our four missed serves in the first set proved to be the difference in the score.
“Each match will continue to get a little more difficult, but we are up for the challenge.”
Leaders: Folz (14k); Finnell (13K); Bonnell (9k, 1ac, 17d); Zamzow (1ac, 26d); Page (1ac, 13d); Lindsey Casper (6ac); Kelsie Belfiori (3ac).
THS coach Paul Zierten noted, “We came out really strong and confident. That’s been our key all year long, playing with confidence.
“They had a few streaky runs, where they started to put 3-4 points together and we couldn’t side out. Merrill played really smart once we got into the third game, putting it in spots we couldn’t get to. They do all the fundamentals well.
The ball doesn’t hit the ground without a body hitting the ground first.”
The two teams may have never competed in the same division in the WIAA playoffs before, but Merrill’s recent drop in enrollment has brought the Bluejays down from the bottom of D1 to the upper end of D2 where Tomahawk has played in a long time.
“It’s fine,” Zierten said. “I want to play the best competition. Some people mentioned (the difference in school sizes), but I frankly couldn’t care less.”
Leaders: Hanna Meyer (18k); Colynn Behling (9k); Becca Doughty (35as); Hannah Feest (19d); Lexi Graeber (17d)
Stealing the Thunder
In the wake of back-to-back WVC championships and a #1 seed, the Bluejay varsity volleyball squad charged into the WIAA Post-Season Tournament firing on all cylinders Tuesday evening, gunning down the Lakeland Thunderbirds 3-0 (25-14, 25-7. 25-13).
“It was a great start to post-season play,” Krug said.
“We had aggressive serving which is valuable in any match, but will play a significant role in the matches to come. I was able to get everyone into the match tonight, which helps to gain confidence within the team. Each match is going to get a little bit tougher, but we are up for the challenge!”
Leaders: Wardall (10k, 3ac, 4d), Folz (8k); Finnell/Bonnell (4k); Pyka (7ac); Zamzow (6ac; 12d); Pyka (8d); Taylor Cichy (4d)
Bobbing the Red Robins
Tuesday night, the Tomahawk Hatchet varsity volleyball squad charged into the WIAA Post-Season Tournament with a vengeance, toppling GNC runner-up Antigo 3-1 (25-16, 25-20, 23-25, 25-18) on the Red Robins’ home court.
“Finally played well tonight!” commented Zierten. “We came out very strong the first two games and I was proud of the way the girls played. We had a lot of grit tonight and really showed how much we wanted to win. After losing to them twice this year there was nothing I needed to tell the team to motivate them. Becca Doughty set great tonight, while Colynn Behling and Hanna Meyer put the ball down.
“Hannah Feest did great in the back row keeping the play alive. There was a lot of senior leadership tonight, including Lexi Graeber serving 4 in a row in the fourth game to push our team to 23.”
Leaders: Meyer (27k); Behling (14k); Doughty (58as); Hannah Feest (26d).