Merrill spikers serve up sectional berth

A quick pair of home match wins propelled the MHS volleyball team to a WIAA regional championship last week.
The Merrill girls stamped a major exclamation point with a 25-6 closing set when they downed D.C. Everest 25-15, 22-25, 25-19, 25-6 on Thursday.
Then they dispatched Marshfield on Saturday in another four-set match by 23-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-19 tallies.
The victories, coupled with a Wausau East rally over Wausau West, have set up a rematch of the Valley’s top two teams for Thursday in Antigo.
“We meet up with Wausau East again but at the neutral Antigo,” Bluejay coach Steph Nelson said. “I’m feeling good about this game. The girls have been playing well, so I think that if we go out there and play defense like we played tonight, and offensively move the ball around, then I think we have an excellent shot at winning.”
East captured both prior meetings between the teams this year, and took the WVC title with a 10-2 record. Merrill posted a 9-3 conference mark, but has improved to 27-8 overall with the most recent wins, while East is 21-4.
Merrill enjoyed its third regional title in four years with Saturday’s triumph, although those 2007 and 2008 were the only ones of the 2000’s.
“To win against a quality team like Marshfield feels great,” Nelson said. “Our defense was great tonight, we had quite a few great saves that kept our momentum going. Marshfield is a very scrappy team defensively, but I think our girls were pretty smart tonight about where they were putting the ball and they did a good job of executing what they knew needed to get done.
“We struggled keeping our serves in play for the first couple games, but then the last two games we didn’t miss a single one.”
Powering the Bluejay attack were: Jess Sabey (17 k, 13 d); Lindsay Krueger (7 k, 20 as, 9 d); Brittany Grosskurth (19 as, 10 d); Renee Sladek (9 k, 4 d, 5 bl); Kaylin Byer (3 as, 21 d); Sam Hojan (5 k, 2 bl); Jenna Zamzow (7 d); Brianna Piepenbrok (5 k); Andi English (3 k).
Everest first test
Other than a slight stumble in the second game of the Everest match, the Jays got progressively better as the night wore on.
“Tonight went well; we had kind of a down game during game #2, but we bounced back in game three and played much better,” Nelson said. “The icing on the cake was game four. We were aggressive at the net and smart on defense.
“Our entire game was working well tonight. We were playing good defense, aggressive offense, including serving, and played smart on both ends. Tonight was a feel-good win for the girls.”
Beating Everest gave an added satisfaction, since the Evergreens were the team to eliminate Merrill from sectionals in the 2007 and 2008 seasons.
Boosting the Bluejays were: Sabey (23 k, 8 d); Krueger (19 as, 20 d); Grosskurth (17 as, 9 d); Piepenbrok (7 k, 13 d); Byer (20 d); Sladek (12 k, 2 bl); English (4 k, 5 as, 2 bl); Hojan (5 k); Zamzow (5 d).

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