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New Richmond volleyball finishes 1-6 in Middle Border Conference

Tiger senior Tiffany Olek (6) returns a Durand serve as teammates Cassie Martie (10) and Sarena Shilts (1) look on during last Tuesday's match.1 / 2
Tiger senior Britney Ellspermann delivers a serve during the five-game battle with Durand last Tuesday.2 / 2

It seems there has been constant change involving the New Richmond volleyball team and that carried into the final week of the regular season.

The Tiger coaches decided to shift from a 6-2 formation to a 5-1 system that uses one setter for the final week of the regular season. The Tigers lost matches to Durand and Osceola, both at home, to finish with a 1-6 record in the Middle Border Conference this season.

This week the Tigers began play in the WIAA Division 2 regional tournament. The Tigers drew the sixth seed and were scheduled to play on Tuesday at Baldwin-Woodville, which received the third seed. The winner of this match will be back in action on Thursday, facing the winner of Tuesday's match between Osceola and St. Croix Central.

The Tigers gave one of their better performances of the season last Tuesday, losing in five games to Durand. Durand won the first, third and fifth games, while the Tigers took the second and fourth games.

This was a match where the Tigers tantalized their fans with their potential. In their wins in the second and fourth games, the Tigers won with powerful play at the net and the ability to handle pressure. They won Game 2 27-25 and Game 4 26-24.

The net play was led by senior Bekah Heitzler and junior Emily Kukacka, who played side-by-side in the rotation. Heitzler got more consistent sets than she has all season and she produced with thunderous hits, leading the Tigers with 14 kills.

"Bekah hit quite a few balls right to the floor," said Tiger coach Bob Fisher.

When Heitzler and Kukacka were patrolling the front line, Durand had very little hitting success.

Starting front line players Caelin Giese and Alecia Brugler missed this match with injuries. The coaches moved Ali Hammer into Giese's role as middle hitter.

"We sped up Ali's progress because of the injuries," Fisher said, saying that Hammer is better suited to play as a right-side hitter at this point in her career.

The coaches also decided to go from using two setters in the 6-2 system to one setter. Sophomore Kate Johnson played setter throughout both matches last week.

"Kate probably ran a marathon chasing down our passes," Fisher said. "I thought she stepped up."

The Tigers lost their home finale on Thursday to Osceola in three games. The Tigers weren't competitive in the first two games. In the third game the Tigers found a spark, building an 8-1 lead. Both teams scored points in clusters the rest of the game, with Osceola pulling out a 25-22 victory.

"We didn't force the issue much until the third game. We'd hit slumps and we couldn't climb out," Fisher said.

With the win, Osceola was able to earn a share of the MBC championship. Fisher said Osceola's overall play was impressive.

"Osceola really outpassed us. I was impressed with their ball control," Fisher said.