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Tigers tie for second place in MBC volleyball standings

New Richmond senior setter Brittani Patten rejoices after the Tigers won the third set in their match against Baldwin-Woodville last week. (Photo by Dave Newman)1 / 2
New Richmond’s Brooke Keilen prepares to send the ball over the net after the Tigers dug up a big hit from Baldwin-Woodville in last Tuesday’s match. (Photo by Dave Newman)2 / 2

The New Richmond volleyball team finished in a three-way tie for second place in the final Middle Border Conference standings for the 2015 season.

The Tigers tied Baldwin-Woodville and Osceola for second place with 5-2 records. The Tigers played both those teams in their final MBC matches of the season last week. The Tigers earned a four-set win against Baldwin-Woodville last Tuesday, but they lost a five-set battle at Osceola last Thursday.

The Tigers now turn their attention to the WIAA Division 1 playoffs. The Tigers received the eighth seed in the Division 1 tournament bracket. That earned the Tigers a home match in the opening round of the playoffs. The Tigers will host Wausau West, the ninth seed, at 7 p.m. on Thursday at the New Richmond High School gym. Doors will open at 6 p.m.

Last Tuesday’s win over Baldwin-Woodville showed how the Tigers have advanced in their ability to adjust to how teams are defending them.The Tigers won the opening set 25-18, but B-W put up a heavy blockade to take away the Tigers’ middle hitters in the second set, which the Blackhawks won 25-17.

The match against Baldwin-Woodville may have been the one this season that best showed the value of senior setter Brittani Patten to the Tigers. After the second set, Patten adjusted her set pattern to make it difficult for the Blackhawks to get a solid touch on many of the Tigers’ hits. She also recognized when B-W had committed to blocking and she quickly tipped the ball over the net to empty spots on the court.

“She spread the ball around really well,” said Tiger coach Missi Whittington.

The change put the burden of producing scoring hits on outside hitters Sarah Gagnon, Hanna Weinzierl and Carly Johnson. They all were up to the challenge. Gagnon led the Tigers with 12 kills, followed by Weinzierl and Johnson with seven each.

That was part of the reason why Gagnon earned the Tigers’ Player of the Match honors. The other part was her exceptional serving. Gagnon led the Tigers with 19 serves in the match. She had six of the team’s 16 ace serves.

“She puts (her serves) in smart spots and she’s really consistent. That’s what we’re looking for,” Whittington said.

This was also a strong defensive night for the Tigers. B-W has some powerful hitters, but the Tigers did an excellent job of keeping the ball in play. They finished the night with 56 digs, led by 13 from Brooke Keilen and 12 each from Patten and Weinzierl. Keilen also had a .462 hitting average in this match, a career-best.

Another part of the strong defensive night was serve receiving. The Tigers only had four errors in returning 73 Blackhawk serves.

The Tigers and Osceola played an epic match Thursday, showing how slim the margin was between the two teams. Osceola won the first set 25-23, but the Tigers won the second set by the same score. Osceola caught the Tigers in a swoon in the third set, winning 25-14, but the Tigers showed their fight by taking the fourth set 26-24.

The fifth set was there for the Tigers to take. They led 12-10 before missing a serve. Osceola got the final points on a pair of defensive miscues by the Tigers.

With Osceola’s strong serving, the Tigers had a difficult time getting their passes on target. That made it difficult to run the middle attack, so the bulk of the hitting opportunities again went to the girls on the outside. They again were up to the challenge. Gagnon led the team with 16 kills, followed by Johnson with 11 and Weinzierl with 10. Weinzierl was also the Tigers’ most effective passer, with one error in 24 serve receive attempts. Keilen led the defense with 15 digs.

Patten led the Tigers with five ace serves in the match and she had 41 assists in her setter role.

Dave Newman

Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.

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