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Wildcat junior Masy Engel goes up high for one of her 12 kills in the Cats' five-set loss to Chippewa Falls last Tuesday at the high school gym. Bob Burrows photo

Spikers 2nd at Sibley Invite

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Spikers 2nd at Sibley Invite
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

It was a week of highs and lows for the Wildcat volleyball team.

The highs came last Tuesday against Chippewa Falls, when the Cats played one of their best matches of the year in a five-set loss to the Cardinals, and Saturday at the Henry Sibley Invitational in St. Paul, where the team went 3-1 to capture second place.


The low was in between at Ellsworth, where the Cats dropped a 3-1 decision Thursday and were forced to play without middle hitter Zoe Barr after the junior hurt her ankle in the second set.

Head coach Sara McDonald said Tuesday's match against Chippewa Falls may have been the highlight of the week, despite coming out on the short end by scores of 22-25, 25-17, 16-25, 26-24, 15-13.

"I was thrilled with the way the girls played on Tuesday against Chippewa," she said. "It is hard to be that close to winning and not be able to finish; still something we are trying to learn. They did everything I asked them to do to the best of their ability and I am very proud of them for that. I was glad to see players being aggressive in a close match. The mindset of this team is typically to play 'safe' and allow the other team to control the tempo. For the first time this season we were on the attack, which is something we need to continue in order to get over the hump and start winning more matches."

Barr led the Wildcats in kills against the Cardinals with 14 while Masy Engel finished with 12. Hannah Tepp dished out a team-high 16 assists and Maddie Shafer contributed 15 while also leading the team in service aces with four. Barr also had two solo blocks.

McDonald said Thursday at Ellsworth was a different story. The Cats won the second set, the same set Barr went down with an ankle injury, but without Barr and Julie Werner, who is still recovering from a sprained ankle of her own, the Cats went on to lose the next two sets and the match.

"Our ball control was poor and therefore we did not capitalize on easy opportunities to score in transition," McDonald said. "Kallie Friede, who is normally an outside hitter, stepped up and filled the middle role nicely. She played with composure and added a spark that we desperately needed. The girls seemed rattled by the recent injuries and adjustments they have created in our lineup. We will win and lose with our ball control and Thursday night we did not have a single passer that reached our team's passing goal."

Engel led the Cats in kills with 10 while Alex Conner finished with nine and Tepp had seven. Conner had a team-high seven digs while Shafer led the team with 14 assists, and while Friede and Barr had one solo block each.

Saturday the Cats defeated defending champion Henry Sibley, Humboldt and Minneapolis Roosevelt before falling to Lester Prairie in the title game of the Henry Sibley Invitational.

"They were a solid team, comparable to an Eau Claire North," McDonald said about Lester Prairie. "We played with composure and if we could have limited a few unforced errors we would have won that match. I can't highlight one single player for individual effort. Everyone played throughout the day and at some point or another everyone made a valuable contribution."

Barr returned to the court and finished with 19 kills on the day while Engel totaled 18 and Conner 14. Barr also led the team in digs with 12 and solo blocks with four. Shafer dished out a total of 37 assists in the four matches and finished with eight service aces.

This week the Wildcats will play in the Osceola Invitational on Saturday. They return home to host Eau Claire Memorial Tuesday, Sept. 21.

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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