Volleyball: Raiders' chemistry strong, passing still questionable
Elmwood and Mondovi showed their fans an equally-matched Dunn-St. Croix Conference matchup on Thursday, Oct. 11, but the Buffaloes were able to outplay the Raiders in one crucial category: passing.
"We have to pass better to Rowan so that we can be more aggressive at the net," Raiders' head coach Amanda Webb said after her team's 3-1 loss. "When Rowan's running all over the place and we can't get a good set, we're not in a system and it hurts us. That's something we've been talking about all year."
The Raiders (7-17) and Buffaloes (7-12) worked their way to an 11-11 tie in Set 1 to start the night, but the Buffaloes then pulled away on a three-point lead with three digging errors from the home team. The Raiders fought back by setting up freshman Maggie Glaus on the outside, but the Buffaloes claimed the set on a 3-0 run with two unforced errors by the Raiders and an assisted block by Macayla Thompson and Marin Jacobson.
While the Raiders' passing may require some adjustments prior to their first playoff game on Tuesday, Oct. 16, the team's chemistry is at a peak thanks to the leadership of Webb's three seniors.
"They're three kids that are pretty much in the game all the time," Webb said. "They're the constants. They're our leaders on the court, and we've really stepped up our teamwork in the last few weeks, which has made a huge difference. It starts with those girls."
The two teams showed a similar matchup in Set 2 with the Raiders relying on kills from Glaus and Katie Feuker to stay tight with the Buffaloes, but when tied at 20-20, Mondovi used two aces from Jacobson, an Elmwood net violation, a Raider hitting error and a Raider blocking error to claim Set 2 25-20. But with the Raiders' senior leadership, Elmwood was able to claim the next set 25-18 after coming back from an 18-12 deficit.
The Raiders used a timeout when down 18-12 in Set 3, and began their 13-0 run with a Glaus kill and an ace from senior Alexia Walz who served through the Raiders' set-winning rally. Glaus recorded six kills in the final moments of Set 3, and finished the night with 21 kills to lead all players. The Raiders tied the game at 18-18 with a Mondovi hitting error and claimed the set 25-18 with another Glaus outside kill.
"She does a lot and she's improving every game," Webb said of Glaus. "We're just trying to keep her going and get some good experience for her."
Though it was senior night, senior Rowan Rupakus took the time to complement the play of her freshman teammates following the match.
"I think we work really well together," Rupakus said. "The freshmen are definitely qualified to be on varsity, and there's not really a difference between our grades. I feel like once we are on the court together, we forget that we are in different grades. We're a team, we're family."
Two early kills from senior Alyssa Peterson allowed the Raiders to stay tight with the Buffaloes at 5-5 to begin the final set of the night, but Mondovi was able to pull away with hitting and digging errors from Elmwood who failed to get within three points of their guests after their first timeout of the set. The Buffaloes claimed the set and game with a 25-17 victory, but the loss came with a silver lining for Rupakus.
"It doesn't really feel like a loss because we worked so well," the senior setter said. "I think we get a little too excited and then we forget to focus sometimes, but other than that, I thought we played well as a team tonight."
The Raiders plan to return to their home court with improved passing and matching team chemistry on Tuesday, Oct. 16, in their final home game of the season and as Elmwood Raiders — the Raiders will co-op with Plum City in 2019.
"I'm happy we get to host the first round of regionals," Webb said. "I would have liked to have been in the other half of the bracket so we didn't have to see Clayton the second round, but such is life. We get to play here one more time as Raiders, and I think we can take a W. It should be a good match."
The No. 8-seeded Raiders will host the No. 9-seeded Cornell Knights (4-14) in the first round of the WIAA Division 4 regionals on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The sentimentality of Tuesday's game hasn't hit Rupakus yet, but the excitement has.
"I'm excited, I'm ready to go," Rupakus said. "I want to win on the last game."
OTHER AREA SCORES
Spring Valley 3, Glenwood City 1
Colfax 3, Plum City 0