MHS spikers take broom to Wausau regional opponents
The Bluejay volleyball team swept through regional foes Wausau West and East like a sharp scythe through ripe wheat at home last week.
The girls opened with a 25-6, 25-12, 25-10 domination of the Warriors on Thursday, then collected a regional title with Saturday’s 25-19, 25-21, 25-17 control of the Lumberjacks. The Jays improved to 36-3 on the season with the victories.
“(It) wasn’t our prettiest match we’ve played in a while, but at least we won in three,” MHS coach Steph Nelson said of the East match.
“What (Saturday) night’s win came down to, was we had just enough drive and energy to make it look easy. We are an excellent team, but the next three days in practice are going to be crucial for getting us focused to try to beat SPASH for the third time this year.
“They always say that it’s hard to beat a team 3 times, and with a team like SPASH they will make it definitely interesting. The girls can definitely do it; they know it and we as a coaching staff knows it. What it’s going to come down to is attitude. Will they have the winning attitude? We’ll see next Thursday in Chippewa.”
Thursday’s WIAA Sectional semi-final between #2 seed Merrill and #6 Point will be played at 8:00 p.m. in Chippewa Falls. The victor and the winner from the 6:00 match between #1 seed Marshfield and #4 Eau Claire North will meet at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday at Wausau East for the right to play at state.
The Bluejays defeated SPASH both times in Valley play this year, in four games on Aug. 30 and in three sets on Oct. 6. The Panthers figured in the Valley title race, defeating the Tigers once on Sept. 27. Merrill and Marshfield split head-to-head, but that was the Jays’ only setback (in the first meeting on Sept. 15) in an 11-1 conference season. The Jays took a five-setter on Oct. 4.
Defense played a key role in Saturday’s win, since its sporadic offense was at times unstoppable and at times dig-able.
“Defensively, Bri Piepenbrok, Jenna Zamzow and Reegan Byer played really well,” Nelson said. “They were getting to some tough balls and not letting a whole lot drop.
“The first game we struggled with the simple things; missed three serves (six total for the night which is high), our passing wasn’t where we needed it to be to get a good set, and offensively we weren’t being as aggressive as we should have been. East is an extremely scrappy team, so all day (Fri)day we were talking about how we needed to hammer it at them or get the ball deep in their court.
“The first game we tipped just a little too much and the score showed it. The second game we were doing extremely well, but then we went on a little low point where we let them come back a little too much. Lindsay Krueger had some phenomenal serves that really started us strong. The last game was much better, but we still let them score way too many points.
Title-sealing offerings came from: Renee Sladek (10 kills, 6 blocks, 10 digs); Krueger (4 k, 26 assists, 3 aces, 9 d); Piepenbrok (21 d); Casey Steffen (8 k, 7 d); Byer (6 a, 9 d); Lauren Hojan (9 k, 3 bl); Zamzow (10 d); Wardall (3 k, 4 bl).
Vanquishing the Warriors
Merrill smoked West 25-6 in the opening game, then backed it up with 25-12 and 25-10 sets.
“Tonight was a great start to playoffs for us,” Nelson said. “We played extremely consistent the entire match; we passed very well, our sets were on and smart. We moved the ball around to different people well, and we were extremely aggressive offensively.
“We didn’t miss a single serve all night which is something that potentially could win us games down the road. We had all seven of our front row players who played got at least six kills; so everything on offense was very well distributed.
“We only tipped the ball a few times and really hammered the ball hard. The girls had a great attitude the whole match and best of all, they had fun.”
Warrior-routing contributions were turned in by: Krueger (6 k, 26 assists, 3 bl, 6 d); Byer (11 a, 11 d); Renee Sladek (11 kills, 2 blocks, 6 digs); Piepenbrok (12 d); Steffen (7 k, 8 d); Katie Zuelsdorf (7 k, 4 d); Wardall (6 k, 3 bl); Hojan (8 k); Zamzow (11 d); and JoJo Catlin (6 k).
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