By Nick Beversdorf
And that’s how you do it, folks! Merrill volleyball defeated West Salem in three sets last night to advance to the Sectional Final.
In contrast to all the other playoff games so far, Merrill won the match with relative ease. The first set was definitely the most difficult, neither team could get more than a two-point advantage for most of the game. As the set went into the lower 20’s, Merrill pulled ahead just enough and secured the first win of the night, 25-23.
The following two sets proved to be excellent for Merrill and disastrous for West Salem. In both sets, Merrill was able to pull ahead earlier with excellent serving and attacking. It seemed whatever Salem had in the first set was long gone, as they struggled. Attacks went out of bounds or simply hit the net, and blocks deflected the ball into the stands.
Merrill took advantage of those errors and handily won sets two and three with scores of 25-17 and 25-12, respectively.
As Coach Krug would later say, it was a team effort as everybody was putting up numbers.
Katie Zelinski led attacking with 11 kills and two errors out of 24 attempts. Morgan Wardall had five kills and five errors out of 17 attempts, Lindsey Casper had three kills out of nine attempts – error free, Maddix Bonnell had two kills and three errors out of 21 attempts, Megan Schroder had two kills and an error out of 12 attempts, Kaylee Bowe had two kills out of eight attempts – error free – and Elizabeth Iribarren had a kill and an error out of three attempts.
Serving was led by Kate Peterson with four aces and an error out of 14 attempts, Wardall with three aces and an error out of 16 attempts, Bonnell with two aces out of 16 attempts – error free – and Casper with an ace out of 11 attempts, error free. Wardall, Bonnell and Kelsie Belfiori (12 att, 2 err) all had some impressive serving streaks, especially in sets two and three.
Merrill responded well to what West Salem sent over the net, thanks in no small part to Taylor Cichy and Bonnell who were the evening’s top passers. Bonnell had six perfect, 15 good, five okay and 2 incomplete along with 10 digs. Cichy had four perfect, 13 good, five okay and three incomplete with a whopping 19 digs.
“Our seniors came to play tonight,” comments head coach Kristi Krug. “Katie Zelinski led with 11 kills and Taylor Cichy came up with 19 digs! The sophomores looked confident at the net and came up with some key plays. Our junior class played rock solid as I would expect them to. Everyone was ready to step up if duty called. As one can tell – it was a total TEAM effort. We still have one more step to make and we are up for the challenge.”
As already stated, Merrill will be heading to Rice Lake on Saturday to face off against Bloomer for the sectional title, game to start at 7 p.m. If Merrill wins, they will travel to the State Semifinals at the Resch Center in Green Bay on Friday, Nov. 4, with games to start at 4 p.m.
Merrill has made two state appearances in recent years, once in 2012 where they went 1-1 and once in 2014 where they went 0-1. Obviously, going to state (and winning a state championship) is very much in the cards for Merrill, so fill up the gas tank and make the drive to Rice Lake to cheer on the lady Jays!
For full stats, click here.