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Volleyball gears up for BRC Tourney

Senior Masy Engel goes up high for a kill attempt in the Cats' 3-2 win over Menomonie last Tuesday. Bob Burrows photo

Wildcat volleyball coach Sara McDonald said she can't wait for the postseason.

McDonald has plenty of reasons to be optimistic after the Cats posted a comeback victory over Menomonie last Tuesday to ensure a better Big Rivers Conference record than last season.

She was even more excited when her team placed second at the eight-team Altoona Invitational Saturday after finishing seventh at the same tournament a year ago.

"It's good to see that we are peaking at the end of the season," McDonald said. I can't wait for the BRC tourney this weekend or for the playoffs to start."

The Cats will travel to Chippewa Falls for the BRC Tournament Saturday before returning to Chippewa Falls for a WIAA regional semifinal Tuesday, Oct. 18.

Last Tuesday at home against Menomonie, the Cats won the first set, 26-24, before dropping the next two, 22-25 and 11-25. But they bounced back to even the match with a 25-20 win in the fourth set, then posted a 15-10 win in the fifth and deciding set for their second BRC victory of the season.

"The win against Menomonie wasn't pretty but ensured that we would finish higher in the conference than we did last season," McDonald said. "I believe we are maturing because this is a game we would have lost in the past. We are learning that even when we play less than our best volleyball we can still find a way to win."

McDonald said the Cats received great passing and defense from sophomore Halle Barnabo in her first start at libero this season. She said outside hitters Masy Engel and Alex Connor also stepped up in the match.

"Our offense was balanced, which is something we have been working toward all season," she said. "Masy and Alex have made some changes in how they attack out of system sets and it has improved both of their hitting percentages."

Saturday at Altoona, the Cats avenged an early season loss to Rice Lake before defeating Somerset and Elk Mound. They dropped a close match to Altoona but still finished first in their pool before falling to BRC champion Eau Claire North in the championship match.

"We gave them a good run," McDonald said about the loss to the Huskies. "We controlled both games up to about point 17 before they made a late run. Their experience shows in those situations. We are still learning how to win. I don't think one player stood out on the day. It was just a great team effort."

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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