Jays split games at UW-Whitewater tournament
By Jared Schmeltzer
The Merrill volleyball team traveled to UW-Whitewater for a tournament on Friday Aug. 30. It was a tale of two days for the Jays, as they struggled on Friday, winning one match and losing three. On Saturday, Aug. 31, Merrill would win three of their four games, including the championship in the copper division.
The Jays got off to a good start on Friday, winning their first game of the day against Clinton. Merrill made quick work of the Cougars, dominating the first set, 25-5 and coming away with a 25-19 second set win to secure the match victory.
Reese Mrachek led the way for Merrill against Clinton, totaling eight kills and coming up with four aces. Rachel Travis did her part on the back end, coming away with 11 digs and Ellie Hartson did a great job of setting up teammates, totaling 15 assists.
Merrill’s next opponent in the tournament would be the Bloomer Blackhawks. Bloomer took the first set from Merrill by a score of 20-25, with the Jays then flipped the script in the second set, topping Bloomer 25-20. In the third and final set, the Blackhawks came out firing and ended up defeating Merrill 7-15.
Kelly Page, Travis and Hartson all had double digit digs against Bloomer. Travis led the team with 16, Page was second with 15 and Hartson totaled 11. Hartson also finished the game with 11 assists.
Against Union Grove the Bluejays would fall in two straight sets, losing 18-25 in the first set and 16-25 in the second.
“Union Grove was in our pool Friday and ended up being the overall champions,” said Merrill head coach Kris Krug. “That was the only team who appeared to be superior to us.”
The Jays then went on to fall to Lodi in their final match of the day. Merrill won the first set by a score of 25-17, however would then lose two straight sets by scores of 22-25 and 7-15.
Coach Krug was not pleased with how her team played Friday, however believes injuries may have played a role. “We lost a close match to Bloomer after winning the first game.” said Krug. “And we continued to lose to teams that were of the same caliber as us. Injuries probably had somewhat of a factor as two of our starters had some health issues over the course of the two days.”
On Saturday the Bluejays began turning things around, winning their first match of the day against Randolph. Merrill took the first set by a score of 25-19 and came away victorious after winning the second set 25-21.
The lone loss of the day for Merrill came in game two against Burlington- Catholic Center. The Jays dropped the first set by a score of 18-25 and fell again in the second set 15-25.
Against Beloit Memorial in the third game of the day, Merrill got blown out in the first set, losing 12-25. The Jays would be a different team from that point on, taking the second set 25-15 and the third and final set 15-7.
Merrill faced off with Randolph again for the final game of the tournament. It would be a similar result as their first meeting, with Merrill taking the first set 25-23 and finishing off the tournament with a 25-13 second set win.
“I was pleased at how we bounced back on Saturday in the semi finals against Beloit Memorial,” adds coach Krug. “Losing 25-9 in the first set and then winning the next two to move on to the championship of the copper division. We are looking at being inexperienced at this point and inconsistent on the offensive end of play. We have a week to practice and work on being a better defensive team, if we can’t terminate on offense.”
Merrill stat leaders for the tournament include Ellie Hartson with 73 assists, Rachel Travis with 52 digs, Kelly Page with 32 kills, Eve Akey with 28 kills and Reese Mrachek with 23 kills.