Raiders take care of Pines, get top-seeded Mosinee next
WIAA DIV. 2 VOLLEYBALL
In order to get a chance to knock off Goliath on Thursday, the Medford volleyball team had to achieve something Tuesday its current members have never done.
Win a WIAA tournament match.
That item was finally crossed off the to-do list for the roster of 11 seniors and three juniors with a solid 3-0 sweep over ninth-seeded Northland Pines in a Division 2 regional opener at Raider Hall. Other than brief moments in games two and three, the Raiders virtually never trailed and competed a three-match season sweep of their Great Northern Conference rivals. “That was awesome,” senior Laurissa Klapatauskas said of getting that first post-season win.
The victory sends the eighth-seeded Raiders (17-15) to tonight’s regional semifi nal against top-seeded Mosinee, who enters tournament play at 30-3 and owns two three-game sweeps over Medford this season. Medford will go in as a heavy underdog, but it is going in knowing it has played solid volleyball for a month, including the first two sets in a loss to the Indians just last week.
“It is a really big deal,” head coach Cheryl Schreiner said of Tuesday’s win. “Hopefully it’s a big confidence builder going into Thursday. They earned it. Pines wasn’t going to go away. They’re a good, strong team. A couple of spectators mentioned what good volleyball it was because everybody kept hitting. Just good aggressive volleyball, hitting and digging. That’s what you want to see at this time of year.”
“We just really came together as a team and didn’t dig ourselves any big holes,” senior libero Olivia Krug said. “We stayed consistent, confident. We didn’t really get down on ourselves too much and kept our energy up on the court.”
Medford took a quick 4-0 lead in game one, saw the lead get whittled to 6-5 on a Madi Meisenburg kill and then got on another run to go up 16-9. The Eagles got within 16-13 when Paris Croker deflected a winner off Rynn Ruesch’s block, but Ruesch put away an easy point off a free ball, Abbie Frey’s back-row shot was unreturned, Ruesch blocked Croker and Gabby Brunner served up an ace to push the lead to 20-14. Katie Brehm notched two kills to help close out a 25-16 gameone win.
The Raiders jumped ahead 6-1 to start game two behind a big kill from Frey, a Katie Lybert ace, a crossing kill from Frey and kills from Ruesch and Megan Fredrikson. Frey, a senior, got the start for one of Medford’s top offensive threats, Martha Miller, who did not play after rolling her ankle in practice Monday. Frey finished with four kills and six digs.
“It went OK (without Miller),” Schreiner said. “The thing is we’ve been practicing since August. Abbie has been playing that position probably her whole career and I felt very comfortable putting her in there because I know she’ll know what to do. She stepped in and did a great job. Allie (Paulson) wasn’t feeling well, so Emma (Brost) came in and set for her. I said, the fact that I can look at my bench and go next man up and have confidence is pretty amazing as a coach.”
“We were just wondering all day what coach was going to do about the situation and where she was going to put our hitters,” Krug said. “We were confident Martha was going to give us her best opinion on if she should be playing or not. It will be good that she’ll hopefully be back playing on Thursday.”
Pines fought back and took a 12-11 lead, but the Eagles held the lead for only that moment. A 5-0 run put the Raiders up 16-12. Ruesch and Fredrikson banged winners off blockers to help open up a 20-15 lead. After Meisenburg hit two winners to get the Eagles within 20-17, the Raiders closed out the set with a 5-0 run that ended with Frey tooling a Pines block on a left-side attack.
Game three was tied 9-9 when the Raiders pulled away and completed the sweep. Fredrikson got the hot hand midgame with three kills in a four-point span for Medford to help make it 19-14. Pines got within two a couple of times and even got within 22-21, but another kill from Ruesch and the clincher on a kill from Klapatauskas that capped the 25-22 victory.
“I was like it’s now or never so I just had to give it my all and swung and hoped it went in,” Klapatauskas said of the final kill.
Ruesch added to her string of recent strong performances with a team-high 10 kills. Fredrikson had six and Klapatauskas had five. Lybert served three aces and had a team-high 11 assists. Paulson had seven assists and Brost had three.
Krug was the leader in digs with 23, while Klapatauskas had 17, Brunner had 15, Lybert had 14 and Paulson had 12.
Ruesch had three solo blocks and an assist with Paulson. Klapatauskas had two solos.
“I thought the girls did a really good job of reading the hitters and what they were giving them in the back row,” Schreiner said. “I thought Olivia Krug did a fantastic job back there, digging and Gabby also. Laurissa had some great digs. Nothing happens in the front row unless our back row does their job.”
The winner of tonight’s regional semifi nal advances to a regional final match Saturday night against either fourthseeded Waupaca or fifth-seeded Tomahawk.
“We have to stay right with them,” Klapatauskas said. “They’re going to get you out of system. That’s their strategy. We have to keep doing our thing. We just have to stay aggressive.”
“We have nothing to lose,” Schreiner said. “We’ll go back there and if we can play like we did in the first two sets last Tuesday, I think we have a really good shot. We just have to be conscious of where the ball is and where their big hitters are. They’re solid. You can’t take anything away from them. But this team has grown so much this season. I tell them that every day. It just amazes me how much they’ve grown this season.”