By Cara L. Dempski
According to coach Samantha Stelter, there was something different about the Elk Mound volleyball team in its 2017 tournament opener at home against Spring Valley.
The fifth-seeded Mounders hosted the 12th-seeded Cardinals in a WIAA Division 3 regional quarterfinal contest Tuesday, October 17 and picked up a 3-0 win with remarkable ease just a scant two weeks after struggling against Spring Valley in conference competition. The win sent the Elk Mound girls on a road trip to Westby two days later for an October 19 meeting with the Norsemen.
It took four sets to get the job done, but the Mounders got the better of Westby, winning 3-1 to earn the right to take on top-seeded Regis in Eau Claire Saturday, October 21 for the regional championship.
The Mounders opened their regional final match at Regis by going down 2-0 before racing to a 25-19 win in the third. The Elk Mound ladies ultimately fell to the Ramblers 3-1 to end their season in Eau Claire.
Elk Mound, who finished 27-19, can look back on 2017 as the first season the team won a playoff match under Stelter’s tutelage as they prepare to send off a talented group of seniors next spring.
If Elk Mound fans were surprised by the team they watched beat Spring Valley October 17, they were in good company.
“We busted out a whole new team,” coach Sam Stelter said. “It kind of started last weekend with a really big win, and some really big accomplishments in a really tough tournament over this past weekend. I think it opened up the girls’ eyes to just what they can do this post season.”
The Mounders had previously faced the Cardinals at home October 3, floundering through their first two sets to pick up 26-24 wins in both before finally finding their stride to win the 3-0 match in the third with a score of 25-11.
In contrast, the October 17 regional quarterfinal at Elk Mound saw the Mounders add a win to their season tally with a 3-0 smackdown after sets wins of 25-9, 25-13 and 25-12.
Whereas, Elk Mound has played inconsistently on and off this season, they seem to have found their spark at just the right time. According to their coach, the Mounders set a goal earlier this season to win a playoff game, which had not yet happened with Stelter at the helm.
“We’ve set our goals a little bit higher now,” she said.
The Mounders opened a six-point lead early in the first match before the Cardinals could get on the board, but then Spring Valley nabbed the first set points in both the second and third prior to falling away from the home squad.
Morgan Radtke rained 12 kills on the Cardinals during the match, and Cassidy Yakesh added another 11 attacks to the total. Allie Weber provided eight kills, Kourtney Zurbuchen logged eight, and Kortnee Halgren accounted for one.
Senior Madysen Borofka provided 32 assists, and Weber and Radtke each set up another scoring attack to tally 34 for the Mounders in the match. Qwynn Tyman led the team with nine aces, Weber and Borofka each provided two, and libero Alex Jenson made the total 14 with one of her own.
Sophomore Sophie Cedarblade led the team with eight digs, Borofka is credited with seven, Radtke logged six, Weber took five, Jenson accounted for three, Tyman took two, and Zurbuchen took one.
Stelter freely admitted after the quarterfinal match that she knew little about the Westby Norsemen.
“We have one common opponent, and that’s Mondovi,” the Elk Mound coach said. “They played very early in the season. As we can attest, the team we are very early in the season is very different from the team now. It’s going to be challenging.”
In addition, Westby is nearly two-and-one-half hours from Elk Mound, and October 19 was a school night, making it unlikely many of the Mounders’ fans would make the trip to the regional semi-final match.
Despite knowing the team would have to generate some of its own energy instead of feeding off the crowd, Stelter felt her Mounder ladies were up to the challenge.
Elk Mound took the first two sets 25-19 and 25-18 before Westby snatched a 25-23 victory in the third set last Thursday.
“The girls weren’t going to give Westby any more opportunity,” Stelter said the morning after the match. “They came out and dominated set four, finishing the set and match 25-9.”
Junior middle hitter Morgan Radtke rained fire on the Norsemen, taking credit for 23 of the Mounders’ total 53 kills in the match. Senior Allie Weber logged 11 kills, Kourtney Zurbuchen dropped in 10, Cassidy Yakesh nailed six, Kortnee Halgren landed a pair of kills, and Madysen Borofka completed the total with one.
Borofka led the team with assists, taking credit for 44 of Elk Mound’s 48 sets. Weber provided two more, and Halgren and Radtke each had credit for one assist.
Alex Jenson, Sophie Cedarblade and Borofka recorded a pair of aces apiece while committing no serving errors. Weber, Radtke and Qwynn Tyman each tacked up an ace in the match as well.
Jenson, the libero, led the team in foiled attacks, taking 15 digs against the Norsemen. Weber and Borofka logged 14 each, Cedarblade and Radtke contributed eight apiece, Yakesh recorded seven, Zurbuchen chalked up six, and Halgren took credit for three.
Coach Stelter said a few weeks ago her team is not known for its tendency to burst out of the gate in any given match, which might explain what happened in Eau Claire last Saturday evening.
Elk Mound’s first set at Eau Claire Regis in the October 21 regional final was a 25-12 wreck.
The Ramblers found ways to force the Mounders out of system, and kept the ladies in orange and black on their toes defending their side of the court.
Things started to shift slightly in Elk Mound’s favor in the second set, which they lost 25-18 before roaring back in the third to best the Regis girls 25-16.
The fourth set opened with both teams trading points, but ultimately, the Ramblers kept up the grind on Elk Mound to take the set 25-20 and win the overall match 3-1.
Once Morgan Radtke found her groove, she landed 13 kills on Regis, while Allie Weber accounted for seven, Kourtney Zurbuchen dropped in five, Cassidy Yakesh and Kortnee Halgren accounted for two each, and Alex Jenson and Madysen Borofka drilled in one apiece.
Borofka set up 23 of the Mounders’ 25 total assists, and Halgren and Radtke accounted for the other two. Weber took 20 digs, while Borofka and Jensen split another 20 evenly between them. Sophie Cedarblade took nine digs, Radtke accounted for six, Zurbuchen and Yakesh tied with four each, and Halgren and Qwynn Tyman recorded one each.
Tyman led the team with three aces, Borofka landed two, and Radtke chalked up one.