RIVER FALLS, Wis. -- It hasn’t been a traditional volleyball season, but that hasn’t stopped River Falls from doing what it’s always done -- win.
The Wildcats swept a pair of matches from Hudson last week to improve to 7-0 with just a makeup match with Menomonie this week before the WIAA postseason begins. The Cats enter play as the No. 1 seed in their bracket and will face either No. 4 New Richmond or No. 5 Hudson in a regional semifinal Thursday, Oct. 22, in River Falls. New Richmond and Hudson will square off in a quarterfinal game Tuesday, Oct. 20, in New Richmond.
River Falls coach Sara Kealy said the Wildcats are relying on their veterans-- particularly senior Anna Wolf and junior Hailey Gratez -- to lead them this season.
“Offensively and behind the service line for sure,” she said. “But both are contributing big defensively too. Anna has dominated the net blocking and Haley is leading the way in the backcourt.”
Wolf recorded four blocks in last week’s two wins over Hudson and Graetz had three while Graetz, junior Dani Lien and sophomore Brianna Brathol had 20 digs apiece.
Wolf and Graetz also paced the Wildcat offense with 21 and 20 kills, respectively, while Brathol and senior Amelia Armstrong drilled 12 each. Morgan Kealy dished out a total of 42 assists.
“Amelia Armstrong continues to have a big presence hitting from both the middle and right side,” Coach Kealy said. “And I have been really impressed with Morgan Kealy's ability to set the tough ball. She is running passes down and getting her hands on everything.”
Kealy said Hudson blocked extremely well in the first matchup, but the Wildcats responded by covering well.
“I did love that my hitters continued to challenge the block with big swings, while at the same time mixed in some off-speed shots,” she said. “It showed a lot of maturity.”
Both the Wildcats and Raiders strung together multiple service aces Thursday night in River Falls, with Brathol, Graetz and Maddy Doerre each drilling at least three in a row.
“Thursday's match was strange behind the service line for both teams,” Kealy noted. “There were a lot of aces and a lot of service errors. We had 16 aces in a three set match. I know Hudson had the same because we would get stuck in a serve-receive pattern, giving up multiple aces.”
Third-seeded Rice Lake and No. 6 Menomonie will meet in another regional quarterfinal match Tuesday night with the winner moving on to play No. 2 seed Chippewa Falls Thursday night. The regional championship is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 24 at the home of the higher seed before sectional brackets are announced Sunday, Oct. 25.