By Jared Schmeltzer
Last night the Merrill volleyball team travled to Medford for their sectional semi-final match against Mosinee. Merrill was tested early but eventually came away with a hard earned win in four sets.
Mosinee came out of the gates hot in the first set, with their defense seeming to block or dig every kill attempt by Merrill.
“They were well prepared defensively and dug up everything,” stated head coach Kris Krug.
At one point in the first set, Mosinee led Merrill by more than 10 points, but Merrill was able to fight their way back into the game, however it wasn’t enough as Mosinee took the first set 25-18. The second set was a battle that never got too far out of hand for either team. Merrill was able to pull away at the end to get the 26-24 win in the set to even it up at 1-1. The Bluejays’ momentum stayed with them in the third set as they took control of the match with a 25-20 win. In the fourth set Mosinee was fighting to continue their playoff run, however Merrill stayed strong and won the grueling final set by a score of 29-27.
“There is no better feeling than to win a hard fought battle between two equally matched teams,” said coach Krug. “Mosinee gave us a match that we needed to prepare for the Sectional Final!”
Merrill had many players play big roles in the win as coach Krug alluded to, saying, “Kaylee Bowe and Elizabeth Iribarren both had some crucial kills for us. Kelsie Belfiori and Morgan Wardall had ace serves that changed the flow of the game. Maddix Bonnell was rock solid with her back row play.”
Iribarren and Bowe both had their season best in kills. Iribarren finished the game with 15 and Bowe with nine, both behind the team leader in kills, Morgan Wardall, who had 19 in the game. Wardall also came up big for Merrill with three aces in the game, one less than Merrill’s libero Kelsie Belfiori who had four. Belfiori was also a force on defense tallying 30 digs in the game. Maddix Bonnell was also great in the back row with 22 digs of her own. Merrill had three servers at 100% for the game, including Lindsey Casper (19 attempts), Madi Weix (18 attempts) and Kate Peterson (11 attempts).
“This was a total team effort to win this. I’m so proud of their resilience, and now on to Saturday!” adds coach Krug. Merrill will be hosting the sectional final this Saturday, as they take on Saint Croix Central at 7 p.m. to battle for a state tournament bid.