Blue Devils take down Bruce in first round of playoffs
The No. 8-ranked Plum City Blue Devils made it past the first round of the WIAA Division 4 playoffs in their defeat over the Lakeland - East Brue Red Raiders on Tuesday, Oct. 12. The Raiders were the ninth seed in the tournament, which allowed for the Blue Devils to pick up their last home win of the season.
Plum City took the first two sets 25-16 and 25-17, lost the second 20-25, and won the fourth 25-19 to stay alive in the postseason.
The two teams were neck and neck at the beginning of the first set, but Bruce struggled with their serve receive after two Plum City aces, which gave the Blue Devils a 10-6 lead early on. Bruce's head coach Gary Hecimovich called a timeout to settle his team, but Plum City went on a 4-1 run behind the net play of Lexi Diesing and lengthened their lead to 14-7.
Morgan Duden's serving also gave Bruce a hard time, which led to a 5-1 Blue Devils run.
Bruce managed to get a sideout at 19-10, but their hitting and serve receive errors would prove to be detrimental for the Raiders. The Blue Devils went on to win the first set 25-16 off of a service ace.
Scores were tied at 6-6 early on in the second set, but a few big digs from Tayler Whipple gave the Blue Devils the momentum they needed to regain the lead at 11-9. Plum City widened the margin in the scores with blocks from Maddie Schellhas and Ellie Funk, two aces from Jessica Martin and two more Diesing kills. The Blue Devils also took advantage of the Raiders' unforced errors and claimed the second set 25-17.
The Raiders appeared to be dejected after losing the first two sets, and the Blue Devils got off to an 11-5 lead before Hecimovich called his team's first timeout of the third set.
Hecimovich was able to lift his team's spirits, and Bruce tied the score up at 16-16 with kills from Brandi Gauthier and strong serving from Kayla Hargave. Plum City left two dropped balls unattended and lacked communication at times, which led to a Bruce comeback.
Gauthier gave the Raiders their 25th point of the third set with a kill from the middle and helped her team stay alive for a fourth set.
Bruce took the first two points of the game, but Martin stepped up once again with her serving and tied the scores at 5-5 with another ace. Similar to Martin's serving, Diesing's hitting was too much for Bruce to handle, and three more kills from the senior hitter gave Plum City an 11-7 lead.
Bruce created one more run behind Gauthier's blocking and kills from Halle Anderson and Emmary Czycon, but fell short in taking the lead and lost the fourth set on an unrecovered Diesing kill.
Bruce ended their season with a record of 8-11, and Plum City will carry on in their playoff run with an improved record of 3-9, 2-6.
The Blue Devils were led in digs by Tayler Whipple (23) who also recorded five service aces on the night.
Diesing carried Plum City at the net with 11 kills, and Jasmine Bylander chipped in with eight blocks and seven kills.
Jessica Martin had an all-around solid game and contributed 35 assists, four digs and three service aces in her team's playoff win. Martin said that her team was nervous coming into the playoff game, but was able to "get it out of our system and just played our game."
The senior setter said her team relies on constant communication, and that when they talk on the court, it works out for them. She believes her team could still improve their court talk, which they'll need to do before their next game on Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. against the No. 1-seeded Clayton (11-0).