Bluejays mix it up with Germantown in state volleyball
The Merrill girls accomplished a huge goal when they qualified for the WIAA state volleyball tournament, but Thursday’s quarterfinal certainly didn’t meet their expectations or desires.
The 31-7 Bluejays ran into a buzz-saw in a well-oiled 36-13 Germantown squad, an Honorable Mention selection in the state rankings.
The Warhawks advanced out of the quarterfinals for the first time in school history with a 25-15, 25-22, 25-14 straight sets victory.
Going into it, I wanted to hang with them,” MHS coach Kris Krug said. “In the second game, I thought we could take it after a good start, but it didn’t happen that way. I had heard they were really poised. You couldn’t tell if they were up five points or down five points.
“We didn’t play our best and we needed to play our best against a team like Germantown. Everybody needed to have a good game and some needed to have a great game.”
The Bluejays grabbed an early 5-2 lead in Set 1, and hung within 11-10 before the Warhawks pulled ahead 18-12. An Anna Finnell smash and Germantown error cut it to 18-14, but Merrill was outscored 7-1 from there.
“The first game was back-and-forth, then we got stuck on 15 and they took off,” Krug said. “Then the second game we were a couple of points away from taking it.”
The Jays jumped out 6-4, fell behind 10-7 but roared back to a 13-11 lead with a Rylee Folz spike and an Ali Zamzow ace. Several powerful spikes from Carly Townsend flipped it 17-14 in the Warhawks’ favor. Merrill trailed 21-17 before responding to 21-20 on a Katie Zeliski back-handed spike and a Chey Pyka ace. After Finnell and Wardal spikes it was a 23-22 set, but two more spikes gave Germantown the win.
“(Townsend) had twice as many kills as my right-side hitter did, and (Townsend)’s got a full ride to Toledo,” Krug said.
The Jays again took early charge in Set 3, leading 4-1, 6-4 and 9-7. But their foes jumped on a 10-2 run for a 17-11 lead. Merrill cut it to 17-14 on an error and a Zamzow ace, but a combination of MHS errors and Germantown attacks ended it at 25-14.
Germantown powered its win with solid hitting, converting at a .347 rate, and fast-paced serving that made it difficult for Merrill to run its offense. The Jays were limited to a .023 hitting percentage and had nearly as many hitting errors (26) as kills (28). Germantown finished with 42 kills to only nine errors, although several of the Warhawks’ best shots hit the line or fell just in. Carly Townsend and Chloe Bingenheimer each made 11 kills for the Warhawks. Townsend and Christina Nenning offered 16 assists apiece.
“They run a much-quicker offense than we’ve seen and we struggled to block their hitting,” Krug said. “We also gave them too many free balls. We got conservative, because they didn’t want to make a mistake. They don’t give themselves enough credit. They can hit a lot more balls than they do.”
The Bluejays were paced in hitting by Anna Finnell (8 kills), Rylee Folz (6), Katie Zelinski (5) and Maddix Bonnell (3). Emily Page gave 24 assists and 7 digs, while lone senior starter Morgan Marnholtz finished with 12 digs. Chey Pyka (6) and Ali Zamzow (5) added digs.
The match wrapped up a season that included a Valley championship, despite using just one senior starter to go with a strong mix of juniors, sophomores and even freshmen.
“The matches we won to get to state were just incredible,” Krug said. “I wasn’t that disappointed at state. Maybe we could have taken a game from them, but Germantown was the better team, clearly.
“I was really proud of what they accomplished this year. The girls never quit. Regardless that we lost in three sets, I’ve got to believe it was a great experience for them. We stayed down there for three days and soaked it all in and created some memories that will be with them for the rest of their lives.
“For any girls returning, it gives them a goal. They’ve got to pick up their game if they want to win a match or a couple of matches in D1. Next year, I’d like us to get in a tournament in Appleton or down in the southern part of the state. We need to see these high-caliber teams (before state).”