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Spikers go down fighting

The Wildcat volleyball team poses for a picture with its ball girls at an end-of-the-season party for the youngsters last week at the high school. This year's ball girls included Madison Kealy, Morgan Kealy, Izzy Barr, Anessa Einum, Halle Olson, Brianna Weber, Hailey Greatz, Riley Nesbitt, Ella Peters, Matte Peters, Charlotte Meier, Ambrea Kjos and Ella Carstensen.

The Wildcat volleyball team didn't let its No. 10 seed get in the way of a strong showing in its WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal Thursday, Oct. 20, in Chippewa Falls.

The Cats gave the seventh-seeded Cardinals all they could handle on their home court before coming up on the short end of a hard-fought, five-set battle by scores of 22-25, 26-24, 17-25, 25-18, 12-15.

Wildcat coach Sara McDonald had nothing but praise for her team afterwards.

"I could not be more proud of my girls," she said. "We are still an inexperienced team and I was pleased to see that the pressure of a playoff situation did not rattle them. Our seniors showed good leadership and the underclassmen stepped up to the challenge. It was a shame that we could not finish the match because I believe that we deserved to win."

McDonald had a hard time singling out one or two individuals for their play, saying it was truly a team effort.

"That is one reason why we competed the way that we did," she said. "Everyone elevated their level of play and did their job."

Senior Zoe Barr led a balanced Wildcat offense with 11 kills while classmate Masy Engel contributed nine. Senior Kallie Friede and sophomore Amanda Rohl finished with seven apiece. Barr and Rohl also served up a pair of aces each.

Senior Maddie Shafer and sophomore Izzy Shafer combined for 35 assists in the match with Maddie accounting for 19 and Izzy 16. Senior Kadey VanBlaircom led the defense with 27 digs while Engel came up with 18 and senior Alex Connor had 17.

McDonald said the match played out much differently than a three-set loss to the Cardinals earlier this season.

"Talking to their coach after the match he said that he was worried about drawing us because we have improved so much throughout the course of the season," McDonald said. "He complimented my girls saying that they play with heart and that they (Chippewa) were lucky to squeak out a win."

McDonald said it was still emotional in the locker room after the loss, especially when it came to the team's seniors.

"This year's seniors are the first group that I coached when I moved to River Falls four years ago," she noted. "They have dedicated themselves to this sport. I am grateful to these players for their commitment and I know that future success in our program is a result of the foundation that they helped build."

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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