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By Missy Klatt
The Lady Hilltoppers’ volleyball team entered the WIAA regional tournament with high hopes. Their week started on a high note when they easily defeated the Colfax Vikings in a regional semifinal on the road last Thursday, October 22nd in three straight sets.
However, the tide turned on Saturday, October 24th when they took on the defending state champions, the Clear Lake Warriors in Clear Lake. Despite an impressive night of volleyball, the Toppers couldn’t pull off the upset and lost in three very close sets.
Glenwood City finished the season with a 9-2 record and their first-ever Dunn-St. Croix conference championship.
The Toppers dominated the Vikings, winning in three sets on Colfax’s home court last Thursday to open the regional tournament. In the first two sets, the Lady Toppers took an early lead and never looked back.
In the first set, the Toppers jumped out to an early 3-0 lead and soon were leading 10-4 when the Vikings took their first time out. The Vikes started chipping away at the Toppers and scored three points in a row before Bella Rassbach shut them down with a kill. Three more points including a couple of kills from the Vikings had them pulling to within two (10-12) of the Toppers before Yasmin Mendez put a stop to things with a kill from the back row.
As play continued, the Toppers kept the Vikings in check with nice hits and blocks from Maddie Oehlke, Mendez, Kristin Dayton and Ryeah Oehlke. With the score Toppers 19, Vikings 14, the Vikings took their second timeout of the set. They then added another point but they weren’t able to do much as the Toppers sailed on to a 25-17 victory.
In set two, the Toppers jumped out to 3-0 lead thanks to two kills and a block from Maddie Oehlke. A short time later, Glenwood City increased its lead to 6-1 with another kill from Maddie O. Some errors from the Toppers allowed the Vikings to start to creep back into the game.
Ryeah Oehlke stopped the Vikings’ run with a kill to give the Toppers a 12-7 advantage. She then served up three serves in a row that the Vikings couldn’t return. The Vikings then added three points before Rassbach stopped them with a kill, making the score Toppers 16, Vikings 10. The Toppers then added three more points to the Vikings’ one. Kristin Dayton then came up to servem where she served out the set for an easy Toppers’ win at 25-11.
The third set had the Vikings challenging the Toppers early on and they kept the score much tighter for the first half of the set. The Vikings were within one point of the Toppers at 7-8 and again at 12-13. It was at this point where the Toppers really came alive at the net with hard hits from Mendez, Maddie Oehlke, Rassbach and Dayton. Ryeah Oehlke then served up a beautiful ace to give the Toppers a seven-point, 22-15 lead.
After a Viking timeout, Ryeah Oehlke served up one more point before the Vikings added their last point of the match with a kill. Mendez then came up with another back row kill and Maddie Oehlke put the match away with a huge block kill. The Hilltoppers won the set 25-16 and the match 3-0.
At the conclusion of the Colfax match, head coach Nicole Miller announced to the parents and fans present that the Lady Hilltopper Volleyball team had been unanimously selected as 2020 Dunn-St. Croix Conference champions. This is the first time in the school’s history that the volleyball team has earned this distinction.
“Winning conference for the first time in the Glenwood City School history is an amazing accomplishment and the girls definitely earned that
title!!” enthused Coach Miller.
In the first set against the Warriors, the Toppers jumped out to a 7-0 lead as the Warriors made error after error. However, Clear Lake finally started chipping away at the Hilltoppers.
With the Toppers leading 13-8, the Warriors turned up the power and cranked out three massive kills in a row followed by a block to pull to within one at 12-13. They then errored on their next hit, giving the point and the ball to the Toppers. Ryeah Oehlke then had a kill that was nothing but floor, giving the Lady Tops a three-point lead. The battle was on and as play continued the teams tied at 16, 17 and 18.
With a kill from Devynn Olson, the Toppers again had a two-point lead to make it 20-18. The lead was short-lived as they were soon tied again at 20. The Warriors then added three points before the Toppers took a timeout. After the timeout, Maddie Oehlke earned another Topper point with a kill. Unfortunately, Clear Lake’s Maddie Rosen, who had really turned up the heat earlier, finished the game with a kill and a tip kill to give the Warriors a 25-21 win.
The Warriors started set two with a five-point run before Kristin Dayton got the serve back with an off-speed kill. It was now the Toppers’ turn to chip away at the Warriors. It was a long process as the Warriors continued to hit hard and rack up the kills. With a kill from Ryeah Oehlke and an ace from Olson, the Toppers still found themselves trailing the Warriors 6-12.
The hits kept coming from the Warriors and they were leading 17-9 when Dayton had a big kill to get the ball back. She was then up to serve and with the help from Maddie and Yasmin Mendez at the net she was able to add four points.
At this point, the Warriors took a timeout to regroup and then soon had a 22-17 lead. Ryeah Oehlke then came up with a kill, followed by another from Maddie when her hit rolled a short way along the net and then dropped. The Toppers then added one more point with a huge block kill from Maddie and Dayton.
The Warriors were feeling the pressure and called another timeout. A long Topper hit gave the ball back to the Warriors, but the Warriors then had three hitting errors in a row, allowing the Toppers to tie things at 23. Mendez then got the go-ahead point with a tip kill. The Warriors countered with a tip kill of their own to tie the game a 24. Clear Lake then went on to score the last two needed points with another tip kill and a hitting kill to win set two 26-24.
Once again the Warriors took an early lead at the start of set three. The score was 8-0 before Bella Rassbach came up with a kill from the back row to get the Toppers on the board, thus starting the process of the Toppers chipping away at the Warrior lead.
With a kill from Maddie Oehlke, the Toppers pulled to within one of the Warriors at 13-14. A few plays later Dayton served up a beautiful ace to tie the score at 15. This was followed by another Topper point when Maddie O. got the kill when she outpowered the Warrior block.
As play continued, the Warriors pulled ahead 21-17. Then Rassbach got hot and cranked out five kills to give the Toppers a 23-21 lead. The Warriors were still battling and it wasn’t long before the set was tied at 23 then 24 and then 25. The Warriors took a 26-25 lead with a block kill, and before you knew it, they had the last point of the match, squelching the Toppers’ hopes and dreams of going any further in the playoffs.
Throughout the match, libero Alex Peterson and the rest of the back row players did a phenomenal job coming up with saves and digging up so many hard hit balls. It was an exciting match to watch as the Toppers gave it their all.
“They definitely were the hardest hitting team we have played against this year,” said coach Miller. “We unfortunately could not cover their hitters like we wanted which allowed for strong hits through the blocks that we had a hard time picking up.”
“The girls never gave up and fought hard throughout the entire match and I could not be more proud of them!!!” continued Miller.
“It was a great game of volleyball and the girls gave them a run for their money. We improved this season with every match and it was so great to see the improvements they continued to make as a team!” concluded Miller.