Wausau Newman’s Mariah Whalen was simply too much for the Hilbert girls’ volleyball team to handle on Friday.
The Fighting Cardinals’ 6-foot freshman kept the Hilbert defense on its heels with her powerful attacks and serving in leading Wausau Newman to the 3-0 sweep of the Wolves in a WIAA Division 4 state semifinal at the Resch Center.
Wausau Newman (29-5) plays Clayton (29-5) for the state title today.
Whalen totaled 17 kills, three aces, two blocks and nine digs in leading Newman to wins by the scores of 25-17, 25-21, 25-19.
The Wolves (29-10) were making their first state appearance since 1998 and third overall. Early jitters led to several easy Newman points early in the first set as Hilbert was forced to chase in the first two sets.
“We started out a little show, which didn’t help us,” Hilbert junior Erica Gehl said.
Wolves coach Kristen Remington said that the big stage may have been a little overwhelming for her players.
“I think they were a little nervous,” she said. “They’ve never played in a gym anywhere near this size. And I think mistakes were definitely magnified. It was hard for them at first to just shake them off.”
Not helping matters for Hilbert was the play of Whalen. She and teammates Shaefer Rupar (5-11), Caitlin Deaton (5-10) and Anna McCarty (5-9) held a sizable advantage along the net for Newman. Rupar added 14 kills and teamed with Whalen to account for 72 of the 99 total attacks by the Fighting Cardinals (29-5).
Newman used a 12-5 run late in the first set to pull away and get the win and carried that momentum over to the second set, where the Fighting Cardinals took a 6-1 lead.
Hilbert inched back and actually took a 15-13 lead, but Newman countered with a 6-2 run that gave control back to the Cardinals.
Whalen and McCarty were crucial in the run, with McCarty recording two blocks. Whalen also had seven kills in the third set as Newman controlled play to get the victory.
April Gehl led Hilbert with 11 kills and Erica added eight. Emma Zahringer had 11 assists for Hilbert.
The Wolves say goodbye to five seniors: Hailey Hemauer, Taylor Schoen, Elizabeth Kaser, Abbey Schaffer and Erin VandenBoogaard.
Hemauer said that the community was behind her team, especially the young girls who idolized the Wolves players.
“We had so many fans to cheer us on and we went to the elementary school and they were more happy than we were,” Hemauer said. “It was just great to see that.”
Hilbert does have a bright future. The Wolves will return several young players for next season, including the Gehl sisters. The duo of April and Erica accounted for 64 percent of the total kills by Hilbert going into the tournament.
“We have a lot of returners,” Erica Gehl said. “It’s such a great experience playing at state. We never would have guessed that we would have been playing at state this year and we’re proud of what we’ve done this year.”
Wausau Newman def. Hilbert 25-17, 25-21, 25-19. Newman leaders: Schaefer Rupar 14 kills, 16 digs; Mariah Whalen 17 kills, 9 digs, 3 aces; Abbey Fox 32 assists. Hilbert leaders: April Gehl 11 kills, 9 assists, 7 digs; Erica Gehl 8 kills, 3 assists, 7 digs; Abbey Schaffer 5 kills; Hailey Hemauer 3 kills, 2 digs; Emma Zahringer 11 assists, 4 digs; Annaleah Jones 4 kills, 3 digs.