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Raiders fall to Pirates

Raiders fall to Pirates Raiders fall to Pirates

Marathon wins the first set in sectional match

It was only natural for Marathon junior Vanessa Krueger to give her father, Marlo Krueger, a big hug and shed a few tears after her volleyball team’s loss to Grantsburg in Thursday’s WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal match. After all, it was an emotional end to the Red Raiders’ successful season. Va n e s s a Krueger admitted before she ran over to hug her father, that at the beginning of this season, she didn’t think Marathon’s volleyball team would’ve made it this far in the playoffs.

Marathon, 9-4 in matches this season, beat archrival Edgar in the regional championship match on Oct. 24. On Thursday, Marathon won the first set, 25-23, on senior Hope Krautkramer’s attack kill against Grantsburg in the sectional semifinal match before dropping the next set, 25-14. The Red Raiders battled against the Pirates and barely lost the final two sets, 26-24 and 25-23.

“I told my teammates after our match loss to Grantsburg I had my doubts at the beginning of the year about how good we’d be,” Vanessa Krueger said. “With us going through COVID and injuries during this season, we really came together as a team and it’s just amazing we got this far. We are all pretty proud of how we played against Grantsburg.”

Three quarters of Grantsburg High School’s gymnasium was full of Pirate fans sporting their school’s purple and white colors. Grantsburg’s raucous student section that wasn’t socially distanced provided the home volleyball team with added energy and motivation to beat Marathon.

A smaller group of Marathon fans, mostly consisting of the players’ families sitting six feet apart from each other on the bleachers, traveled three hours to Grantsburg in northwest Wisconsin to cheer on their beloved volleyball team.

Marathon won the first set against Grantsburg, despite it losing junior libero Jenna Aschbrenner early on to a head injury. She couldn’t return to the volleyball court to play in the remainder of the match. The libero is each team’s defensive specialist who isn’t allowed to serve the ball or rotate to the front line during the match.

Vanessa Krueger said it was unfortunate her team lost Ashbrenner to an injury.

“It was definitely hard because Jenna’s an amazing player, but I think everybody really stepped up how they needed to,” she said. “Her injury made our team even more motivated to win the first set without her, because we all know how much she cares and loves our team and the game of volleyball.”

After Ashbrenner left the match, Marathon only had 10 players remaining with six of them in the starting lineup on the volleyball court and four left on the team bench. Grantsburg, meanwhile, had more depth with nine bench players.

Pirates head coach Deb Allman Johnson was able to constantly rotate three or four bench players at one time onto the volleyball court, in order to keep her starting players well rested during the match. Marathon co-head coaches Nicole Schneider and Lynelle Love, meanwhile, only rotated senior bench player Kaitlyn Rusch onto the volleyball court to replace Hope Krautkramer at various times during the match.

Coach Schneider was proud of her team’s effort on the volleyball court against state powerhouse Grantsburg.

“Our girls definitely came to play in the sectional semifinal match against Grantsburg,” Schneider said. “It hurts to lose one of our players in the first set but our girls rallied back. Grantsburg has amazing hitters, so for us to be to play four games and only lose the last two of them 25-23 and 26-24 is a huge credit to our girls who came to play and left everything they had on the court. It stinks to lose but our girls came to play and they put their hearts out on the court.”

Vanessa Krueger led Marathon with 14 attack kills against Grantsburg, while Krautkramer added 13, freshman Ava Krueger 10 and junior Alyssa Hall eight. Vanessa Krueger also paced the Red Raiders with 22 digs, while sophomore Ashley Phakitthong contributed 13 and Krautkramer and Hall added nine apiece.

Freshman Ava Krueger led Marathon with six block assists, while Krautkramer and Phakitthong had two each. Phakitthong paced the Red Raiders with 30 assists and junior Allison Wokatsch added 17. Vanessa and Ava Krueger, along with Hall, each recorded one ace serve against the Pirates.

Grantsburg, 14-2, ended up losing at Fall Creek, 16-2, in a Division 3 sectional championship on Saturday.

Coach Schneider was left wondering how much more successful this Marathon volleyball squad would’ve been this season, had it been a normal year with two weeks of practices and a scrimmage played before the regular season began. The WIAA pushed back the fall volleyball season three weeks as a precaution to the coronavirus.

“If we could’ve had this team in a normal year then it would’ve been amazing,” Schneider said. “We are losing a few seniors who are great kids who led our team this year, but next year’s going to be another awesome year because we have a great group of kids coming back.”

Marathon’s volleyball team loses starting senior Hope Krautkramer and senior bench players Kaitlyn Rusch and Aria Quiggle to graduation in spring.

The Red Raiders, however, returns a solid core of starting-caliber players next year consisting of sisters Vanessa and Ava Krueger, Wokatsch, Ashbrenner, Hall and Phakitthong. Bench players Kendra Stoffel and Alex Kraimer are also back next season.

FORMING A TEEPEE AT THE NET- Marathon junior Alyssa Hall (13) spikes the ball against Grantsburg blockers Hanne Johnson (11) and Jordan Java (23) in a WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal match on Thursday. It just so happens the three volleyball players formed a teepee at the net.STAFF PHOTO/CASEY KRAUTKRAMER

MARATHON VOLLEYBALL BATTLES GRANTSBURG- Picured to the left, Red Raiders sophomore Ashley Phakitthong (11) sets the ball in the team’s WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal match loss to the Pirates in the Grantsburg High School gymnasium. To the right, Marathon junior Allison Wokatsch (8) spikes the ball over the net at Grantsburg senior Gretchen Lee (10).STAFF PHOTOS/CASEY KRAUTKRAMER