New Richmond volleyball upsets Baldwin-Woodville before season ends
Every team hopes for the one night when they show how good they can be.
That night came last Tuesday for the New Richmond volleyball team. The Tigers, seeded sixth in the Division 2 regional tournament bracket, went to Baldwin-Woodville and upset the third-seeded Blackhawks. The Tigers won the match in a five-game thrill ride.
The Tigers used a powerful net attack to build a sizeable lead immediately in the first game, winning 25-14. The second and third games were close battles where B-W had a slight edge in passing and that carried the Blackhawks to 25-22 and 25-19 wins.
There was no letdown by the Tigers after those two games. They came back with a renewed fire to win the fourth game 25-17. The Tigers strong play at the net had the Blackhawks rattled and the Tigers were able to pull away early in the fifth game, winning 15-6.
The height and strength of the girls at the net for the Tigers had a cumulative effect in this match. Led by Bekah Heitzler, Caelin Giese and Emily Kukacka, the Tigers got their hands on a good percentage of B-W's hit attempts and several of them were driven straight to the floor for block kills. That trio, along with Ali Hammer, also gave the Tigers a steady hitting attack throughout the night.
How much of an impact did the Tigers' blocking have? B-W finished the match with 37 hit kills. But the Blackhawks also had 33 hitting errors. The Blackhawk hitters were doing all they could to avoid the Tiger blockers, but in doing so they were hitting the ball out of bounds at a high frequency.
The Tigers had switched back to a 6-2 formation for B-W because they were back to full health. The 6-2 formation uses two setters and the Tigers used Kate Johnson and Leah Blader in that role. The Tigers had gone to a 5-1 scheme the previous week because several players were injured. Johnson hurt her shoulder in the first game at Baldwin, but continued to play the rest of the week.
The Tigers were the more consistent passing team in this match. Led by the passing of Tiffany Olek, Maddie Krumm and Blader, the Tigers were able to maintain a consistent attack because of their reliable back row play. The Tigers also got inspired back row play from senior Rylee Rasmussen, who made several diving saves to keep plays alive.
Tiger coach Bob Fisher said this was the match the Tigers needed to prove to themselves they could play at this level.
"Without a doubt, this was their best extended streak of volleyball the whole year," Fisher said. "If we'd have played that well in conference we wouldn't have been 1-6, we'd have had a positive record."
Fisher said he was impressed with the team's confidence after losing the second and third games.
The Tigers went to Osceola on Thursday hoping to achieve their second tournament upset. The Tigers put up an excellent battle, but the Chieftains were able to prevail 25-22, 25-14, 25-14.
The first game was pivotal. The Tigers came out with the same high-energy blocking attack that had worked so well at Baldwin and it had the same effect early in the match against Osceola.
"Early on, we had Osceola sweating," Fisher said. "There were some great points in that first game."
Throughout the first game, Osceola built a slim lead and the Tigers would chop it down. Osceola led 22-19 when the Tigers got the serve back. Rasmussen served the next two points, but the Tigers couldn't get the tying point. Osceola held on for the 25-22 win.
Osceola began making adjustments that Baldwin-Woodville couldn't, cutting down on the impact of the Tiger blockers. That was a key in the Chieftains winning the final two games by 25-14 scores.
"Osceola has a nice mix of hitters. Their girls played well," Fisher said.