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Fryza voted Player of the Year; 5 Pirates honored after big year

Fryza voted Player of the Year; 5 Pirates honored after big year Fryza voted Player of the Year; 5 Pirates honored after big year


The Gilman volleyball team’s senior class continues to make history.

After clinching a share of the school’s first Cloverbelt Conference championship in the sport since 1981, the Pirates came away with five individual honors in the voting for the 2019 All-Eastern Cloverbelt Conference team, an unheard of number for Gilman volleyball.

Senior Evelyn Fryza earned the most prestigious of those awards as she was named the eight-team conference’s 2019 Player of the Year.

Fryza and Grace Grunseth are among the seven players on this year’s All-ECC first team, while Montana Birkenholz and Lydia Syryczuk earned their firstever All-ECC volleyball awards by landing on the second team. Jaiden Sedivy is one of seven players to earn honorable mention.

Under head coach Janice Komanec, the Pirates won their first six Eastern Cloverbelt matches and wound up 6-1, tying Columbus Catholic atop the league standings. Columbus won an Oct. 10 showdown with Gilman in straight sets to pull into the first-place tie and earn the East side’s berth in the Cloverbelt Conference championship, which it lost 3-0 at Fall Creek on Oct. 17.

The Pirates finished the season 23-8 overall, falling 3-1 to McDonell Central in the Cloverbelt’s second-place crossover match. They won their first two WIAA Division 4 regional matches over Clayton and Turtle Lake before losing to top-seeded Clear Lake 3-1 in Gilman’s first regional final appearance since 2005. Clear Lake and McDonell Central ended the regular season as Wisconsin’s top two ranked teams in Division 4.

The Pirates won the six-team Prentice Invitational on Sept. 7 and the Owen-Withee Triangular on Aug. 29. They finished second at the nine-team Medford Invitational on Sept. 28 and the Cadott Quad on Sept. 5 and took third at their own invitational on Oct. 12.

Fryza was a second-team All-ECC pick the past two years, and she took her play up a level in 2019. Her primary role for the Pirates came at the setter position. She surpassed 1,000 assists for her career early in the season and averaged just under 30 assists per match and just over eight per set in conference play. Fryza had 36 assists in a four-set win over Colby on Sept. 12, 33 in a four-set win at Greenwood on Oct. 8 and 32 in a threegame sweep over Neillsville on Oct. 1.

Fryza, though, wasn’t just a setter. She contributed at the net with 105 kills and 58 blocks during the season with blocking and attacking, reaching highs of eight kills against Colby and three blocks in a three-game sweep of Loyal on Oct. 3 in conference play. She had 11 kills and three blocks in one of Gilman’s biggest non-conference wins of the year, a 3-2 victory over Marawood North champion Abbotsford, on Sept. 3.

One of Gilman’s most aggressive servers, she was among the team leaders in aces with 40 and served at a 90% success rate and was usually in double figures for digs as well. She finished with 200 for the season.

Grunseth made the first team for the second straight season and was a secondteamer as a sophomore. She again was the team’s offensive leader, averaging 4.5 kills per set in conference play and 15 per match, and she led the team in blocks while typically playing the middle posi- tion in the front row, averaging more than four per match in league play.

Grunseth finished with 312 total kills during the season and an impressive .292 hitting percentage. She had 100 blocks, served at a 91% success rate with 24 aces and had 197 digs.

She had 22 kills in the win at Greenwood, 18 kills in the Neillsville sweep and 16 kills in a Sept. 19 sweep over Spencer. She had seven blocks against Loyal and Greenwood and four against Colby and Neillsville.

Grunseth and Loyal senior Remi Geiger are the lone repeat first-teamers from a year ago. Neillsville senior Ellie Moseid, Owen-Withee senior Brianna Simington and Columbus Catholic’s Dorci Walker and Megan Kibbel round out this year’s first team.

Birkenholz got more swings on the left side from the front row and was a valuable defensive player, ranking among the team leaders in digs wiht 351. She found her swing as the season progressed and ended with 127 kills, recording nine kills in the Colby win, seven against Greenwood and Spencer and she had seven in all three post-season matches. She led Gilman in digs with 20 at Owen-Withee on Sept. 26, 19 against Neillsville and Loyal, 16 at Greenwood and 14 at Columbus.

Birkenholz had 44 aces and served at a 94% success rate.

Syryczuk added to Gilman’s defensive strength and its passing with her strong season-long performance at the libero position. She finished the year with 377 digs and 25 service aces while putting 89% of her serves in play. She had 23 digs in the win over Colby, 15 against Loyal and 14 at Greenwood.

Sedivy had a knack for coming up with some big kills when Gilman needed them and was among the team leaders in blocks. She had 179 total kills and 31 blocks. Sedivy finished with a solid .237 hitting percentage.

Among the performances that got her noticed this season were her eight kills, eight digs and a block at Columbus Catholic, her six kills and three blocks against Loyal, her six kills and two blocks at Greenwood and her six kills at Owen-Withee.

Sophomores Aubrey Syryczuk and Emma Grunseth and freshman Grace Tallier figure to be the key returning pieces next year for Gilman, who will certainly be looking for new talent to step up with the departures of the five All-ECC award winners, plus Lexi Chaplinski and Samantha Person.

With five All-ECC award winners po- tentially back in 2020, Columbus Catholic likely will enter next year as the overwhelming favorite to win a fourth straight conference title. The Lady Dons won their WIAA Division 4 regional title, but were eliminated from tournament play by Newman Catholic for the fifth straight year, this time in the sectional semifinals in five sets.