Bluejay spikers’ state bid falls short at Sectional Finals
After ending the regular season on a high note with a 3-1 victory over Wausau-East on Oct. 27 and capping off a 4-game, 12-set winning-streak, the Bluejay varsity volleyball squad rolled into the post-season firing on all cylinders. The ladies made their 2020 post-season debut with familiar foe D.C Everest on Oct. 29, downing the Evergreens 3-1 (25-21, 26-24, 24-26, 25-23).
Senior Kelly Page led the Jays’ offensive prowess with 17 kills, followed by Nicole Zoellner (10) and Molly Dallman (8). Defensively, Jordyn Henrich paced the Jays with 3 solo blocks, Crystal Dearth and Page tied with a solo block each, respectively. Rachel Travis led the team in digs (34) followed by Dani Korman (17).
Next stop for Merrill would be River Falls, Wis. on Saturday, Oct.31 and a bout with the Wildcats for the WIAA Division 1 Sectional title. Unfortunately, the road to the big dance would end there for the Bluejays; falling 3-0.
Zoellner would take the offensive lead for Merrill (5k), followed by Page (4) and Henrich (3). Defensively, Faith Seliger and Zoellner tied with 2 solo blocks, while Dearth added another. Travis once again led the pack in digs (16) followed by Page (15) and McKenna Smith with 9.
“This has been a season for the books,” comments head coach Kris Krug.
“Having our season dissected to 15 matches instead of 40 was something I had never imagined. The conference competition wasn’t as competitive as years past because we all felt like we were just thankful every time we got to gameday. However, post season was still as exciting as ever.
“We were bumped back into Div 1 due to 100 plus teams opting out of the fall season. Our regional consisted of teams of the GNC (Great Northern Conference) which we never were able to play this season, but managed to handle Ashland and Lakeland without too much trouble, to be the Regional Champs. The WIAA reseeded us for sectionals and we ended up with the #3 seed which put us up against DCE for the third time this season. We lost to them 2 times prior losing in 5 sets one time and 4 the other. On Thursday, Oct. 29 we took down the Evergreens in 4 sets to match up with River Falls. River Falls was shocked, to say the least, as we came out hot in set one. They were going in with an undefeated season only actually losing 2 sets. We served them aggressively and put up some blocks and led by four, early-on. Our demise was getting conservative on our hitting and standing flat-footed on defense. We lost 25-19 in set one. Struggled on serve receive in set 2 and they finished strong in set 3 to move on to State.
“Nicole Zoellner played tough for us as did Kelly Page. River Falls is in a different class as in a “normal” year we should be competing for a Division 2 bid to State. I’m happy to say we all made it through and a little bit stronger because of it.”
Page, Travis set career milestones-
Kelly Page accomplished a milestone this season by reaching 1,000 career assists on Oct. 20 against the Hortonville Polar Bears. She is a 3-year starter on Varsity and her accomplishment comes from setting the ball to a hitter, who gets an attack kill. “Kelly is also our strongest hitter so for her to reach this goal is extraordinary,” adds coach Krug.
Rachel Travis on Oct. 17 against the Wausau West Warriors, reached a career milestone of 1,000 digs. “This was a goal of hers that didn’t seem achievable with the uncertainty of being able to finish out our already diminished season. The Merrill Volleyball Coaching Staff is extremely proud of these two athletes who have worked very hard in and out of season to be the best players and leaders on the 2020 squa,” Krug said.