Bluejay spikers finally bested; Hatchets right behind

The Merrill volleyball team finally felt the sting of its first loss on the season, but it took until the championship game of Saturday’s D.C. Everest Invite for Kimberly to make it happen.
The Bluejays had already captured the Marshfield and UW-Whitewater tournaments as well as last Tuesday’s three-game sweep of Everest in WVC dual play.
“It was a great learning experience for us,” MHS coach Steph Nelson said. “We learned that we are a beat-able team, and that we have to play well in order to win; they won’t be just given to us. So now our record drops to 19-1 in matches and 39-4 in overall games, which considering some of the teams we’ve played so far this year is extremely impressive.”
The Tomahawk volleyball team also competed at the event, ranking just behind Merrill in third by knocking off Lakeland 25-15, 25-16.
“We were very solid against Lakeland with 26 kills and 6 team blocks,” THS coach Jen Pfannerstill said. “We shut down any offense they had and served them really aggressively. We controlled both the service line and serve receive, which was the difference in the match.”
Merrill had swept its pool play competition with wins over Tomahawk (25-10, 25-18), Wausau East (25-10, 25-12) and Eau Claire Memorial (25-20, 25-23).
“Overall, we did not play up to our potential,” Nelson said. “We had a rollercoaster of a day. We played well against Tomahawk, then we played okay against Wausau East. Lastly, in pool play we beat Eau Claire Memorial. That match especially we did not play well until the end of the second game. We had gone down by eight points late in the game, but then rallied back to win. It showed a lot of character on the part of the girls to be able to pull themselves out of their slump and win the game.”
The Jays then put Lakeland away 25-10, 25-9 to set up the Kimberly final. Unfortunately, Merrill lost it 25-17, 25-21.
“We played very sloppy (against Lakeland),” Nelson said. “Our biggest challenge of the day came when we played Kimberly. They are a very good team, but we should not have lost to them. They had some really hard hitters but we got caught up in the wrong spots or playing flat footed. Kimberly has phenomenal defense so we struggled getting big kills.”
Tomahawk had dropped a 19-25, 25-22, 15-9 match to E.C.M. after dropping the Merrill opener, but the Hatchets rallied with a 26-24, 25-20 match with Wausau East.
“We really had a slow start against Merrill in the morning and gave up too many large point runs,” Pfannerstill said. “We had control of the Eau Claire Memorial match in game one and were up 18-11 in game two before giving up a huge run of points where we just couldn’t side out. Against Wausau East, I thought our blocking picked up and we were able to be more offensive than they were. We averaged over 10 kills a game and scored almost two blocks per game. That put us in a good position and we were able to control the tempo of the match.”
Tomahawk then dropped a 25-21, 25-20 match to Kimberly before rallying over Lakeland.
Merrill production came from: Jess Sabey (42 kills, 3 assists, 3 aces, 18 digs, 3 blocks); Renee Sladek (43 k, 7 d, 3 bl); Lindsay Krueger (4 k, 97 as, 3 ac, 17 d, 2 bl); Kaylin Byer (55 d); Reegan Byer (7 as, 19 d); Lauren Hojan (9 k, 6 as, 3 d); Bri Piepenbrok (16 d); Aubrey Wardall (8 k, 3 d, 4 bl); Katie Zuelsdorff (9 k, 3 d); Casey Steffen (4 k); and Jenna Zamzow (4 d).
Tomahawk offerings came from: Anna Nyberg (40 k, 27 d); Kellan Flynn (23 K, 20 bl); Anna Sudbury (6 k, 10 bl, 73 as, 19 d); Kayli Ogstad (11 k, 3 as, 3 ac, 14 d, 6 bl); Alex DuPlayee (17 k, 19 d, 2 bl); Kelsey Paramore (4 ac, 41 d); Hanna Doughty (4 k, 7 as, 4 d, 7 bl); Amanda Schneider (3 ac, 11 d); and Maddie Garrison (5 d).
Chopping chances
The Bluejays defeated the Evergreens 25-13, 25-12, 25-6 in Thursday’s home and Valley opener.
“Overall, I can’t complain,” Nelson said. “Are there things we need to work on? Of course. It’s always nice to beat a team in three games, but there was a lot to be desired in this game.
“Our passing wasn’t very good and our energy was low in the first two games, but in the third game we really picked it up and played a lot better. Our defense was very scrappy and we did a great job of reading tips and rolls. Setter Lindsay Krueger did a nice job of making the best out of okay passes and all of our attackers did a nice job of exposing DCE’s weak spots.”
The Bluejays punctuated numerous points with virtually unstoppable power smashes, and the defense kept several balls alive whenever Everest would manage a solid attack.
Stats were registered by: Krueger (34 as, 9 d, 3 bl); Sladek (17 k, 2 bl); Sabey (9 k, 8 d); K. Byer (10 d); R. Byer (10 d); Piepenbrock (7 d); Wardall (5 k); Zamzow (4 d) and Steffen (3 d).
The Hatchets prevailed in Tuesday’s quad, sweeping Clintonville (25-10, 25-19), Mosinee (25-21, 25-23) and Everest 25-12, 25-21) for the title.
“We did a nice job of staying in control of the matches,” Pfannerstill said. “We held the lead the majority of the time and were able to keep our concentration for longer periods of time. We focused a lot on our side of the net and are working on siding out and limiting the other team’s stretches of points. We were very aggressive from the serving line and did a pretty nice job on serve receive throughout the night, which was key for victory.”
Offering firepower were: Nyberg (27 k, 8 d); Sudbury (4 k, 44 as, 4 ac, 4 d, 3 bl); Paramore (33 d, 3 ac); Schneider (9 k, 13 d, 4 ac); Flynn (16 k, 5 bl); Ogstad (12 k, 6 ac); Garrison (11 d); and Doughty (3 k, 2 bl).
Good GNC start
Tomahawk faced Mosinee in Thursday’s rematch, this time for the GNC charts and still on the road.
Mosinee took the starter by a 27-25 tally, but the Hatchets roared back to take the match with 25-23, 25-20 and 25-23 games.
“Last year, Mosinee beat us the first conference match of the year,” Pfannerstill said. “This forced us to play ‘catch up’ all season long. We wanted to control our own destiny this year, and this win was the first step in doing that.
“After defeating them on Tuesday at the quad, I think we came out a bit flat and had decided that we only needed to play ‘so well’ in order to get the win. The danger in that is that the other team will be more ready to go and be able to take the early lead. That’s exactly what happened.
“In game four, it was back and forth a lot like the end of game one. We, however, were more aggressive than we were in game one and played to win and not to avoid losing. We were swinging on match point and that’s what we, as coaches, want to see.”
Producing for THS were: Sudbury (7 k, 44 as, 3 d, 2 bl); Nyberg (24 k, 12 d); Flynn (15 k, 6 bl); DuPlayee (7 k, 6 d); Paramore (12 d); Ogstad (3 d, 4 bl); Doughty (5 k, 2 bl) Schneider (6 d).

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