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Volleyball edged by Hudson, prepares for regional play

Wildcat junior Izzy Shafer sets the ball near the net in the second game of the Cats' 3-2 loss to Hudson last Thursday at the high school. <i>Bob Burrows photo</i>

The Wildcat volleyball team fought back from a 2-0 deficit against Hudson Oct. 4 to tie the score before losing the fifth and deciding game, 10-15.

The Cats dropped the first two games, 20-25 and 17-25, before storming back to take game three, 25-19, and tying the score with a 25-13 win, only to fall in the end.

"I feel like a broken record when it comes to the fifth game," head coach Sara McDonald said. "We have the talent needed to win matches, and we compete so hard only to not finish. I can't fault my girls' effort or desire to win. We just lack the attitude necessary to play with the confidence needed."

Junior setter Izzy Shafer returned to action after breaking her thumb two weeks ago. McDonald said Shafer was a little tentative at first, but once she settled in the Cats' offense started to click.

"Once she settled in to the match I thought she played great," McDonald said. "She delivered hittable balls and made good decisions running the offense."

Shafer finished with 29 assists while Kayla Myhre delivered a team-high nine kills and Amanda Rohl contributed eight. Joellen Turner came up with three solo blocks and Megan Pechacek finished with 11 digs while Myhre had eight and Shaleen Ziriax and Halle Barnabo had seven each.

"We got a boost from Shaleen Ziriax, who plays defensive specialist," McDonald said. "I thought her effort defensively was fantastic and her energy really gave us a spark. Erin Robey also impressed me by hitting some nice shots. She has been a consistent player for us on the right side, but has not been a major offensive contributor. It was nice to see her elevate her game."

Oct. 6 the Cats went 4-1 at the Altoona Invitational to take fourth place. River Falls defeated Somerset, Eau Claire Immanuel and Rice Lake while losing to Altoona.

"It was nice to get a second crack at Rice Lake after losing to them earlier in the year," McDonald said. "I had a chance to play more people and thought overall it was a great team effort. The match against Rice Lake we focused on our team defense and I thought we were extremely scrappy. Our energy was good and we finished when we had the opportunity as opposed to letting them hang around."

Rohl led the Wildcat offense with 21 kills and eight service aces on the day while Pechacek finished with 17 kills and Turner had 16.

Shafer dished out a total of 62 assists while Barnabo led the team with 18 digs and passes at a 2.38 success rate in 33 attempts. McKenzie Tirrel passed at a 2.31 clip in 13 tries and Myhre was 2.11 in 19 tries while Pechacek was 2.08 in 25 tries.

The Wildcats will host Prescott in the regular season finale Oct. 11 at 7:15 p.m. before beginning WIAA regional play next week. McDonald said she expects good things from the Cats in the playoffs.

"All teams want to peak at the right time in the season and I feel that we have the talent and the experience to do that in the next two weeks," she said.

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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