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Tigers play their best at home invitational

New Richmond junior Lauren Smith (21) puts up a set during last week's match at Somerset. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

The two losses in Middle Border Conference play left the New Richmond volleyball team frustrated.

In their home invitational on Saturday, Sept. 30 the Tigers turned that frustrated energy into improved play. And the improvements led to the Tigers winning three of their four matches to take fourth place in the tournament.

The Tigers defeated Cadott, Altoona and Barron to reach the tournament semifinals, where they were defeated by Rice Lake. The Tiger JV team went 4-0 to win the tournament title at their level.

The day started with the Tigers facing Cadott. It was a good test, with the Tigers winning 25-23, 25-22. Next up was Altoona, an opponent the Tigers haven't beaten in many years. This time, the Tigers rose to the challenge. They took the opening set 25-17, but Altoona came back with a 25-23 win in the second game. The Tigers wanted this one badly and they earned it with a 15-6 win in the third set.

"Altoona has been a thorn in our side for years," said Tiger coach Al Getschel.

The Tigers then faced Barron, one of the best teams in the Heart O'North Conference. The Tigers were solid and steady, winning 25-19, 25-23. Getschel said the team's play improved throughout the day.

"By the afternoon, it was the highlight of the year," he said.

In the fourth round the Tigers faced Rice Lake, which has a very strong middle attack. The Tigers won the opening set 26-24, but Rice Lake came back to win the final sets 25-11, 15-8.

The highlight for Getschel was seeing the girls come together to perform as a team during Saturday's action.

"We had a much better gel. The communication and willingness was one; they were willing to work together. I thought they covered each other's backs and played for each other," Getschel said.

There were a number of Tigers who stood tall in Saturday's success. Mandy Dolezal led the team with 17 ace serves and she delivered 21 kills and 23 digs. Lauren Smith was a force at the net, leading the Tigers with 29 kills and 10 blocks.

Junior libero Amelia Feuerer delivered some of her best play of the season on Saturday, leading the team with 26 digs while showing a poised leadership that kept the defense unified. Setter Mykenzie Patten kept the attack flowing with 65 assists.

The impressive showing Saturday was badly needed after the Tigers seemed to bottom out in a home match last Thursday against Ellsworth. The Tigers lost 25-22, 25-8, 25-21. After the second set, the coaches removed several of the starters and gave younger players an opportunity. Getschel said it sent a double-edged message. He said it showed no job is secure if the girls aren't playing to the best of their ability, and it showed the younger players that they aren't far away from being able to contribute regularly at the varsity level.

After such a busy stretch, the Tigers now have some time to rest. They don't play again until next Tuesday when they have a match at Osceola.

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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