Merrill spikers put the spank on All-Valley squad
The Bluejays girls capped off the Valley championship season with a pair of girls picked for each level of the All-Conference team.
Junior middle hitter Renee Sladek was one of just two unanimous First Team choices, while senior setter Lindsay Krueger was also chosen to that seven-person squad.
Senior libero (defensive specialist) Bri Piepenbrok and junior outside hitter Katie Zuelsdorff both were Second Team votes. Senior defensive specialist Jenna Zamzow and junior middle hitter Aubrey Wardall received Honorable Mention.
“We had six people (selected), that’s nice,” MHS coach Steph Nelson said. “Renee and Lindsay were First Team, as they should have been.
“Bri and Katie were Second Team, I really think that Bri should’ve been First Team, but whatever, out of my control. Then Aubrey and Jenna were honorable mention.
“I’m glad we had that many people; in the past even though we’ve done well in conference we haven’t had that many and it makes me angry. Obviously we won conference two years in a row for a reason.”
Sladek led the league in attack % by a wide margin, converting .543 to .383 for 2nd-place Zuelsdorff. Wardall was 5th (.307), Krueger was 7th (.279) and junior Lauren Hojan was 9th (.250), giving MHS five in the top nine.
Sladek also led the league in blocks per game (1.24) while Wardall was 6th (.82) and Hojan tied for 8th (.71).
Krueger rated 2nd in the league in assists /game (8.55) and was 3rd in serving % at 97.2%. Sladek was 5th in serving % at .968, while junior Reegan Byer was 12th at 1.64 assist/game.
Piepenbrok ranked 2nd in digs/game at 4.6, while Zamzow was 15th at 2.79/game.
“Renee brings just raw athleticism. With her speed, vertical, and power, she is able to make something out of nothing,” Nelson said. “The other teams in conference were tracking her at all times, but they still couldn’t stop her. They could hold her to only 10 kills maybe, but stopping her wasn’t possible. Blocking wise she was so strong that teams had to constantly think of how to work around her.
“Lindsay brings so much intelligence and consistency to the court. I’ve only seen a few setters with her consistency of sets. She rarely sends a bad set, and she is so athletic that she can make a great set out of a bad pass. Especially at the end of the season, she got very good at choosing her sets wisely. She moved the ball around so much that it made the other teams have to forget about Renee. There were so many matches that all of our front row players were a factor because of how well she mixed things up. Serving wise she’s also a great threat, she lead our team with 46 aces and only 16 missed serves. That’s pretty phenomenal if you ask me! Defensively she’s very quick and instinctively goes to where she needs to be.
“Bri also brings a lot of athleticism and consistency to the court. She is so quick that she can come up with some amazing digs, but she’s so consistent on serve receive and free balls that she allows our offense to really shine. If we could give an assist to the assister, she would have about 90% of those. She was also a very consistent server, missing less than 20, but she got over 40 aces. She has well-placed serves that makes it hard for the other team to return something hard.
“Katie brings a lot of controlled hitting to the front row. Before her ankle injury, she was getting a lot of kills because if we told her where she should hit, she could hit that spot. I’m glad they still voted for her; I was nervous because she missed the second half of conference play that she would get gypped out of an all conference spot, but that really means that the other coaches also saw her ability to hit her open spots. Serving wise she was also extremely deadly. She has a knuckle-ball that is one of the nastiest serves I’ve ever seen. If she doesn’t get an ace out of it, she makes the other team send something very easy back at us allowing us to set up our own attack.
“Aubrey brings a lot of power to the team. She had a lot of blocks this year because of her strength. Offensively, she has the ability to place balls into really hard to reach areas. She had a breakout game our second time playing Marshfield. She was able to tip to effective spots and hit at their weaknesses all while shutting down their attacks.
“Jenna also brings a lot of quickness to the team. She also had a breakout game against Marshfield; she dug up everything that they sent at her. She is able to save so many balls that you would think would be a lost cause. There were so many teams who had to play slop volleyball because she and the rest of the back row were so consistent with getting to the hard shots. She is also an extremely consistent server, getting a lot of aces in not so many misses.”
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