It could have been a crushing week for the New Richmond volleyball team.
Instead, the Tigers turned it into a triumphant week. The Tigers started the week with a discouraging loss at St. Croix Central. The Tigers made a few tweaks to the lineup and came home for a match on Thursday against Prescott. It was a match that tested the Tigers’ physical ability and the team’s collective heart. The Tigers won in three sets, but none of them were easy. The Tigers finished with a 31-29, 25-21, 25-22 victory.
That carried into Saturday’s tournament. The Tigers advanced to the championship match against Grantsburg, which advanced to the WIAA Division 3 state tournament last year. The Tigers and Pirates waged a battle. The Tigers captured the first set, 25-22. Grantsburg showed its firepower in the second set, winning 25-14. Both teams were at the top of their game in the deciding set. The set was close until the final point, with Grantsburg winning 16-14.
The Tigers won their other three matches in the tournament. They opened with a 25-17, 25-17 win over Cadott. The Tigers then faced a potent Rice Lake squad and this match also went to three sets. The Tigers won the opener 25-21, but Rice Lake came back with a 25-19 win. The Tigers prevailed in the final set, 15-11. The Tigers also played a tense match with Middle Border Conference rival Baldwin-Woodville, winning 25-21, 25-22.
Junior setter Ashley Patten led the Tigers on Saturday. She scored with 16 ace serves while supplying 47 assists and nine digs. Leah DeYoung led the Tigers with 21 kills and six blocks. Audrey Feuerer supplied 19 kills, five aces and four blocks. Mandy Dolezal finished with 10 digs, nine kills, five assists and three blocks.
Thursday’s win over Prescott showed how important serving has become to the Tiger attack. The Tigers prevented Prescott from being able to run its attack by using powerful, accurate serves. That was led by DeYoung, who scored with six ace serves. Dolezal and Feuerer both scored five aces.
That trio also led the Tigers’ net attack. Feuerer led the team with nine kills and four blocks. Dolezal contributed seven kills and DeYoung six kills. Dolezal also led the team with 10 digs. Patten supplied 25 assists and also two ace serves.
The Tigers have two more conference matches on the schedule this week. They will play at Somerset on Tuesday, then play at home Thursday against Ellsworth.
SCC wins twice
Impressive wins are the best medicine.
St. Croix Central volleyball coach Mindy Widiker was battling the bug that has afflicted so many area coaches and students on Tuesday. Her team made her feel a whole lot better with an impressive three-set win over New Richmond on Tuesday.
Central quickly turned the match into a serve and block contest, excelling so much in those areas that it completely took New Richmond out of its usual approach. The opening set was close, ending 25-19. The Tigers had more and more trouble dealing with Central’s attack, losing the final sets 25-9 and 25-8.
The first set in Tuesday’s match saw both teams flex their muscles early no. Central jumped out to an 11-3 lead. Then New Richmond fought back, tying the match at 11-11. Central led 19-18, then the Panthers revved up their net game. Led by two kills from Katie Larson, the Panthers’ final flurry produced a 25-19 win.
Central was able to reel off long stretches of points due to excellent serving. Widiker said the team has been working at putting more spin on its serves. It showed. The Tigers struggled all night to get a clean pass on those serves, which fluttered like knuckleballs, but still had a strong velocity.
Katie Holmgren served the Panthers to a 5-0 start in the second set and the Tigers never recovered. The score was quickly 13-4 and the margin grew from there.
The Tigers came out with fire in the third set, which was tied 6-6. Then Katie Gostovich stepped to the service line and picked apart the Tigers’ serve receive, serving 10 straight points before the Tigers could regain the serve momentarily.
New Richmond coach Al Getschel was just as shocked as his players in how quickly and how completely the Tigers’ attack came apart.
“Their passing was spot on, ours was terrible. We couldn’t run our offense. When we did, we hit well, but we didn’t get many chances,” Getschel said.
Widiker said she usually can find areas of the Panthers’ play to critique, but she said her team played so well, she didn’t see any negatives.
“I felt like we had it all together. All the pieces were working,” Widiker said.
She pointed to passing, setting, serving and attacking as areas that all looked good. Another feature that worked well for the Panthers was blocking, where they effectively took away any opportunities for New Richmond’s middle hitters.
“Our block has been really great all around this year. That’s been one big difference,” Widiker said.
The blocking is led by Gostovich, Larson and Olivia Cleary and it seemed the Central blockers challenged every hitting attempt the Tigers tried. Widiker said the setting done by Holmgren and Morgan Siler has also progressed nicely, keeping the hitting attack running smoothly.
The Panthers faced a severe test on Thursday, but were able to pull out a five-set win over Baldwin-Woodville. This is a busy week for the Panthers, starting with a home match Tuesday against Amery. They play at Osceola on Thursday and they play in a tournament at Altoona on Saturday.