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State volleyball: Cats advance to semifinals

The Wildcat volleyball team celebrates after scoring the final point in its 3-0 sweep of Kimberly in a WIAA State Tournament quarterfinal match Thursday, Nov. 2, at the Resch Center in Green Bay. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia

River Falls looked like it was just warming up in the third set of its 3-0 victory over Kimberly in a WIAA State Volleyball Tournament in Green Bay Thursday, Nov. 2.

After pulling out a 25-21 win in the first set and taking the second set, 25-19, the Wildcats clicked on all cylinders in the third set, putting the match away with an emphatic 25-10 victory for the first state tournament win in school history.

The fourth-ranked Wildcats, now 42-0, will take on top-ranked Oconomowoc (31-9) in a state semifinal game Friday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.

Head coach Sara Kealy said the Wildcats still have plenty to prove.

“It's interesting because we play on the western side of the state most of our matches so I don't think we get a lot of respect,” she said. “Most people think that the better teams play in Milwaukee and the Green Bay area so it was fun to come over here and see how we matched up.”

After opening up a 22-11 lead in the first set against Fox Valley Association champ Kimberly, the Wildcats saw the Papermakers collect eight straight points, aided by six River Falls attack errors, to pull to within three, 22-19. Emily Banitt and Marissa Stockman traded kills with Kimberly before Stockman put down the game-winning point to give River Falls a 25-21 victory.

After hitting just .119 as a team in the opening set, the Wildcats improved that percentage to .286 in set two and led by as many as 11 before going up 2-0 in the match with a 25-19 victory.

The third set was all River Falls as the Wildcats hit .571 as a team without an attack error.

Stockman and Halle Olson recorded 10 kills each on the night and Emily Banitt had eight while Anna Wolf scored six. River Falls also played one of its best defensive matches of the season with Sam Krueger collecting 13 of the team's 36 digs.

Krueger said the Wildcats put it all on the line against Kimberly and are ready to do the same thing tomorrow night against top-ranked Oconomowoc.

“From the first day of practice we've been in it to win it and we've been working our butts off,” she said. “We don't want to see our record and everything we've done so far just for go for nothing in this first game, and we knew we could do it and we knew that we had to give everything we had because literally, why not.”

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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