Considering her team was fresh off a win over one of the state’s top-ranked Division 2 teams earlier this week, you could excuse Sheboygan South volleyball coach Leslie Laster for being a bit blunt Thursday night.
The Redwings were sluggish from the start and couldn’t hold onto the momentum they built during a late-match surge in a 3-2 loss to cross-town rival and veritable underdog Sheboygan North at home.
“We didn’t show up to play,” a visibly flustered Laster said after the match. “It’s that simple.”
Days after handing Notre Dame — then the state’s seventh-ranked D2 team — a 3-2 loss, the Redwings found themselves having to battle back from an early deficit against the Golden Raiders, who charged to a 2-0 lead after winning sets by scores of 25-18 and 25-20.
“It is a huge point of pride,” North coach Katie Jansen said of the win, noting the rivalry match against South is always an important date on her players’ calendars.
And when it comes to volleyball, this rivalry seems to have gone mostly the Golden Raiders’ way — at least for the last few years.
In 2009 and 2011, the Raiders trounced the Redwings 3-0 both times the teams squared off in the regular season. In 2010, North took a narrow 2-1 win at an early-season invitational, though South volleyed back for a 3-2 regular-season victory later that year.
After taking the opening sets Thursday, North looked to have an easy look at another quick win. But the Redwings, who struggled to capitalize early, weren’t going down easily, and finally turned the tide in Sets 3 and 4, winning by scores of 25-18 and 25-19 to force a decisive fifth set.
North rallied for the win after claiming a 15-5 victory in the final set.
“I honestly expected that,” Laster said of her team’s late comeback. “We’re a strong team, we’ve been in tight matches before. But I did not expect — I didn’t expect to lose tonight. I’ll be honest.”
“For us it was all about focus, because South fights,” Jansen said. “They are known as being a fighter team in our conference, and they are great at it and they’ve done it well this year.”
North closes its regular season with a 4-7 record in the Fox River Classic Conference. The ninth-seeded Raiders open their WIAA Division 1 postseason run next Thursday at eighth-seeded Oshkosh North.
South, meanwhile, finishes with a 7-4 conference record. The Redwings earned a No. 6 seed in their postseason bracket, and host No. 11 Cedarburg next Thursday.
“I told the girls at the end of the match here that if we could play South earlier in the season, it would mean so much more to us, because they always play South this way,” Jansen said. “If they could reach this potential at the beg of the season and realize how good they could be, we would have had a much different season this year.”