By Coach Tina Turn
With a win over the Northern Freeze in the opening round of playoffs, the Bearcat volleyball team advanced to take on the #3 seed, the Badger/ Greenbush-Middle River Gators. The match was set for Thursday, Oct. 26 in Greenbush, but due to snow and poor weather conditions, all Thursday Section 8A play-in matches were postponed until Friday, Oct. 27.
Seeded #6, the Bearcats were the underdog heading into the match, despite the 3-0 win over the Gators in The Swamp Oct. 10. Both teams were set for an epic battle, and players for both teams put on a good show for the filled gymnasium.
In set one, KCC came out a little hotter than BGMR. The Bearcats maintained a slight lead throughout the set. When the Gators took their first timeout, it was the largest lead of four points with the Bearcats on top 17-13, but the Gators slowly picked at KCC’s lead and forced a Bearcat timeout with a mere one-point, 19-18, lead. The back-and-forth battle continued until the Gators reached game point with KCC sitting at 22. The timeout did the trick as KCC fought hard for the next four points and came out on top 26-24. Marlee Turn paced the offense at the net with six kills, followed by Cora Kujava with four, and Sophie Klegstad with three.
Right from the Gator’s first serve, set two was clicking in their favor. For every struggle on serve receive that the Bearcats had, it fueled the fire of the Gators. Timeouts were taken when down 5-11 and 8-18, but the Bearcats never found a rhythm in the set, and BGMR tied up the match with a 25-15 set two win. Only seven Bearcat kills were recorded in the set.
The back-and-forth battle of set three proved to be very exciting. At the net, Turn dominated with seven kills and five block assists. Kasey Soliah joined in the blocking effort with three block assists, while Klegstad pushed back for two block assists, and McKenna Peterson and Cheyanne Scalese also each clocked one block assist. All of those push-backs helped lead to a close 25-23 win in favor of the Bearcats.
The start of set four was a repeat of set two and the Bearcats had to take their first timeout down 0-6. Following the timeout, the Bearcats slowly edged their way back in contention, and when off-the-bench freshman outside hitter, McKenna Peterson, stepped to the line, she rattled off six tough serves that prompted a BGMR timeout when the Gators were ahead 10-8. In the previous three sets, KCC blocked well, but in set four there wasn’t one block tallied. That made the back-row defense’s job difficult, but they still found a way to feed the offense as Turn clocked seven winners. Three of her teammates combined for the other four kills in the set. KCC was up 20-19 when the Gators decided to take a timeout; that stop helped them surge toward a 24-22 upswing to prompt a Bearcat timeout. The timeout didn’t help the Cats as the Gators went on to get the final point and tie up the match again at two sets apiece.
In the deciding set, the Bearcats were a couple of points behind the Gators for most of the time. The Bearcats only made two errors in the set, and the front row helped earn nine of those points off kills from Kujava, Turn, and Peterson. Turn and 8th grader Scalese combined for a block kill, and Turn added an easy point at the line with an ace. Unfortunately, the Gators weren’t making many errors either as they continued to power through the Bearcat block. Those bobbles through the block converted into more points for the Gators as they forged ahead for the win 15-12.
This was good playoff volleyball between two well-matched teams. Either team could have ended up as the winner, but unfortunately for the Bearcats, they fell three points short in the end. Both teams served well; the Gators only earned five points off service aces and the Bearcats earned six ace points. KCC served an overall 90 percent for the night. Net play was strong as KCC clocked 13 blocks and 53 kills. Back row play was also strong with 54 digs.
Playoff battles should be about points earned, not points given on unforced errors and that was the case for both teams. At the end of the final set, both teams were still swinging hard, but the match went to the team who got through the block most, and that was the Gators.
This 2017 team grew tremendously from the beginning of the season to the end. They closed their season with a final 17 wins and 13 losses record. We play a very tough schedule comparatively in our section, and we’re happy to battle tough competition in order to help us be stronger at the end than we were at the beginning, and that was definitely the case with this group. We say goodbye to four fine seniors: Kasey Soliah, Sophie Klegstad, Hallie Nupdal, and Madeline Olson. These seniors wrap up a successful volleyball career and pass the baton to the underclassmen who will be ready to build on this year’s success and carry it forward into the 2018 season. Thanks to everyone who has supported us during the 2017 season; we’re grateful for the fantastic community in which we live.
By Coach Tina Turn