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Stratford falls in sectional semi

Stratford falls in sectional semi Stratford falls in sectional semi


Tigers’ bid to return to state tourney fails

By Ross Pattermann

The Stratford Tigers have been one of the most consistent volleyball teams in the state. If their records and accolades seem to come easy, it’s anything but.

Each team is a different conglomeration of new faces and returning players. All of which makes what Stratford has done in the past several years all the more remarkable.

“It means a lot for our team and our program,” head coach Brooke Kafka said about Stratford’s deep post-season run. “You know, this is a brand new team, and a lot of girls are new to the varsity level in general. I am proud of what they’ve accomplished this season and the run that they made through the playoffs.”

After finishing 2018 as the first team to ever journey to the state title game, expectations to do it again weighed on the minds of all returning players. It would be a tall order, but the Tigers gave their all and put everything on the line to reach that goal.

“This year I could not be more proud of the players and we are all just so proud of what we’ve done,” junior Abby Oertel said. “Honestly, we have so much talent, it’s just in our minds, we always doubt ourselves, but coming out this year, from beginning to the end, we showed amazing talent and worked together so well.”

Stratford won conference earlier in the year, and then returned to the regional championship. The Tigers then won that, advancing to the sectional semifinal in Fall Creek on Thursday, Oct. 31.

The Tigers would square off against the Crickets, who had ousted the Abbotsford Falcons, winners of the Marawood - North, and a team that pushed Stratford to five sets in the Marawood Crossover.

There would be few surprises between the two teams. The Tigers had defeated the Crickets 2-1 in the Marathon Early Bird Tournament earlier in the season, and had stopped Fall Creek in the Division 3 sectional semifinal match in 2018.

But on Thursday it was the Crickets, who held the one seed, and benefitted from a vocal cheering section, that would win the third time around, with the Crickets stopping Stratford in four sets.

Fall Creek walked a fine line between victory and defeat, taking the first set 2522. In the second set, it was all Stratford. The Tigers fell behind early, 5-10, and then proceeded to rattle off a 20-2 run to close the set as they rained down serves and kills to even the match up at one set apiece.

However, in the third and fourth sets the Crickets began to find ways to block shots up front and extend points with stellar play in the back row.

Soon, it was Fall Creek who regained the momentum, taking the third set 2517. The Tigers fought on in the fourth set, but simply could not find a way to impose their big hitting, or find a way to get past the Crickets’ defense, falling 25-16.

“In the second set we were just able to run our offense more, and that proved to be a big threat for them, and we were able to return the ball,” Kafka said. “We just needed more of, and just couldn’t get it going tonight.”

The loss ended the Tigers’ season, but they leave 2019 with a sterling 38-4 record and multiple tournament wins and a perfect 7-0 mark in the Marawood - South.

On the year, Stratford was led by Mikayla Guldan with 295 kills, followed by Kamryn Schueller with 199 and Lauryn Nagel with 179. McKenna Krall finished with 64 aces and 354 digs. Tanaya Schillinger had 212 digs. Guldan had 239 digs.

“I am just so grateful for the season that we had, from starting off and winning a lot of tournaments . . . going on to become conference champs and then winning a regional title,” Stratford senior Kamryn Schueller said. “A lot of teams didn’t get to this point, and I’m just so proud and grateful to be a part of it.”