The fifth-seeded Hudson volleyball team knew last Thursday’s regional semifinal against No. 12 Chippewa Falls would be its final home match of the season, and it didn’t disappoint with a 3-0 sweep of the Cardinals.
The Raiders gave their fans even more to cheer about in Saturday’s regional final by bringing home the regional championship plaque from Merrill. The Raiders beat the fourth-seeded Blue Jays in four sets-- 25-23, 22-25, 25-17, 25-22-- to set up an all Big Rivers Conference sectional semifinal against top-seeded River Falls this Thursday, Oct. 31, in River Falls.
The Raiders trailed the Blue Jays 13-20 in the opening set before rallying for the win to set the tone for the night.
“That comeback was a huge confidence booster for the team, and even though we lost the second set we were always in it,” head coach Dennis Saathoff said. “This was the most fun match we played all season with many long rallies in each set. Both teams played great defense and took big swings and you could tell by all the cheers and constant roar that the crowd was really into it.”
Service errors plagued the Raiders early as they committed six in the opening set but they went on to total just seven the rest of the night with Ariana Zins recording 25 without an error while adding 19 digs. Sara Hoffman led all defenders with 26 kills and contributed 12 kills while Noelle Kiltie drilled a team-high 13 kills. Shay Wassman contributed 11 kills and had three blocks for points while Kaitlyn Zignego dished out 28 assists and Liz Collinson had 17. Collinson also had a team-high four aces.
“One thing that made this match special was that if one player started to struggle, at least one other player stepped up and made a big play,” Saathoff said. “Whether it was a diving dig or a great attack swing for a point.”
The Raiders earned their trip to Merrill with a 25-13, 25-20, 26-24 sweep of Chippewa Falls in their final home match Thursday, Oct. 24. Hudson scored the first seven points in the opening set to get the home crowd into the match early.
“We jumped out to an early lead in the first set and played at a high level without any let downs,” Saathoff said. “The real difference between the first set and the third set was serving. In set one we had six service aces and in set three we had six serving errors. All night long our middle attack was something they could not contain. Our middle hitters accounted for just over half of our overall team kills.”
Wassman led the tandem will 11 kills while Kiltie had seven.
Zins paced the Raider serve-receive corp with 23 service receptions as the Raiders allowed just two aces all night.
“It was our good passing game that allowed us to run our middle offense so effectively,” Saathoff said. “And our setters did a great job finding the open hitters.”
Zignego ended the night with 17 assists and Collinson had 13 along with two service aces.
The Raiders and Wildcats will meet up in the first sectional semifinal Thursday, Oct. 31, at 5 p.m. in New Richmond while second-seeded Eau Claire North will face No.6 Wausau West at 7 p.m.