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Down but not out: Elmwood volleyball rallies to win against Plum City

Plum City senior Morgan Duden gives advice to the next server during her team's matchup against Elmwood on Sept. 21. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 7
The Plum City volleyball team celebrates a block from senior Maddie Schellhas during their matchup against Elmwood on Sept. 21. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 7
Elmwood volleyball head coach Megan Challoner watches the ball intently during her team's matchup against Plum City on Sept. 21. Challoner said her team changed their rotation during the third set, something she's never done before. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 7
Plum City sophomore Grali Foley prepares for a pass against Elmwood on Sept. 21. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia4 / 7
Plum City senior Ellie Funk goes for a tip over Elmwood senior Hannah Feuker in their matchup on Sept. 21. The Raiders would come back from losing their first two sets to win, 3-2. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia5 / 7
Elmwood freshman Anna Blanford goes for a spike but Plum City senior Ellie Funk is there for the block on Sept. 21. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia6 / 7
Pure elation from the Elmwood volleyball team on Sept. 21 against Plum City as they come back from two sets down to win the match. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia7 / 7

Faced with being down two sets in Plum City's gym,the Elmwood High School volleyball team, seeking their first conference win, had to do something.

With nothing to lose, the Raiders head coach Megan Challoner decided to take a "gamble" switching up her normal rotation.

While at the time it seemed like a radical change, the move helped the Raiders (1-9, 1-1) defeat the Blue Devils (1-5, 0-3) in five sets, picking up their first Dunn-St. Croix Conference win of the year, 25-19, 25-11, 26-24, 28-26, and 15-11.

"I never do that," Challoner said. "It was a risk...We had to do something."

With their backs against the wall, the Raiders moved their rotation up three spots, a better way to combat the Blue Devils' best players, said Challoner.

The wins weren't be pretty, going into extra serves in sets three and four.

In the third set, the Raiders found themselves looking at a 20-15 deficit. Challoner said many practices focus on mental toughness and trusting the player next to them to really come up strong.

The Raiders narrowed the lead to 23-22 with the Blue Devils ahead when junior Rowan Rupakus nailed a serve in the back right corner, barely making it in.

With the third set's momentum on the Raiders' side, they continued their rally, going up quickly to 4-1 on the Blue Devils. But that wouldn't last long, being just a point differential between the two not long thereafter.

A mixture of strong defense, efficient passing and solid teamwork contributed to the Raiders' victory in the fourth set, who cruised to a 15-11 victory to seal it.

The Blue Devils co-head coach Marah Boyer said after the game the team's "communication" after those first two sets had a lot to do with the team's collapse.

"They just lack communication," Boyer said. "Didn't come out strong in the third, lost that game, and then their confidence went down."

Boyer said the change of rotation from the Raiders didn't effect their team, rather the Blue Devils took themselves out of the game.

"They just made mistakes," Boyer said. "Missed serves definitely didn't help."

The Raiders were led by senior Hannah Feuker with 15 kills; her sister, sophomore Katie Feuker, had 12 kills herself. Raiders junior Alyssa Peterson led the team with five digs.

The Blue Devils were led by senior Ellie Funk with eight attacks and three blocks, while senior Tayler Whipple had 13 digs and senior Jessica Martin had 15 assists.

Challoner said getting their first Dunn-St. Croix Conference win felt "really good" and they hope to continue their strong momentum on Sept. 26 at home against Durand for their Homecoming game.

Challoner said she expects a similar game from Durand as her team experienced against the Blue Devils, calling the Panthers a "scrappy" team.

"They're athletes," Challoner said. "We'll expect a good game out of them very similar to tonight. It should be a close one again."

The Blue Devils will go on the road against Glenwood City, where they will focus on their communication for that matchup, according to Boyer.

"We just need to go out and believe we're a good team and leave it all out on the floor," Boyer said.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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