Neenah’s Hope Werch is listed as a freshman in the nice glossy program provided by the WIAA at the state girls’ volleyball tournament.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a player, coach or fan from Wausau East who would believe that, however, as the 6-foot Werch tallied eight kills, seven digs and five aces to lead the Rockets to a sweep of Wausau East in a Division 1 state quarterfinal match on Thursday at the Resch Center.
Neenah (42-4) defeated East 25-19, 25-13 and 25-15. The Rockets play Westosha Central (43-8) in a state semifinal today at 7 p.m.
“I wasn’t nervous. I was really excited,” Werch said about playing in her first state tournament match. “And my teammates kept telling me to, ‘Settle down! You’ll be fine!’ So I just did and went out there and played.”
The Rockets were extremely businesslike in making short work of Wausau East. Neenah’s diverse roster features outstanding hitters like Werch, Haley Barnes, Kauri Jensen and middle blockers Lexi Watt and Carley Ramich.
When you add in one of the top setters in the area in Bailey LaMarche, libero Jenny Johnson and a bench full of players who could start for many teams, the Rockets have all the makings of a potential state championship team.
“This is a team that’s always come out with that glint in their eye of just being a great competitor,” Neenah coach Bruce Moriarty said. “We haven’t really faced anybody where we’ve said, ‘Oh, my gosh. I don’t know if we can stop them.’ There’s always been confidence and that competitive drive.”
Neenah put together lengthy runs in the first two sets to pull away and get the victory.
The Rockets did allow the first five points of the third set, but Neenah again rose to the challenge with a pair of kills from Ramich and a pair of aces from Werch highlighting a 10-1 run that gave the Rockets a 10-6 lead.
From there it was more kills from Werch, Barnes and the fantastic blocking duo of Watt and Ramich that capped the victory.
“I think it’s always been a team effort for us. We’ve never been just one or two players,” Moriarty said. “We’re extremely well-rounded and everybody contributed at different times tonight in different ways.”
Barnes had 14 kills to lead the Rockets and also chipped in six digs. Ramich and Watt had seven and six kills, respectively, with Jenny Johnson adding eight digs. Jensen also contributed six digs for Neenah.
LaMarche was sensational in running the show for the Rockets from the setter position with 34 assists.
“We really came out there and executed our game plan,” Barnes said. “We still have things to work on, but we’re taking a step in the right direction.”
Neenah def. Wausau East 25-19, 25-14, 25-15. Wausau East leaders: Clara Baumann 19 kills, 7 digs; Annie Tumen 6 kills; Vanessa Boorse 23 assists, 9 digs. Neenah leaders: Haley Barnes 14 kills, 6 digs; Lexi Watt 6 kills; Jenny Johnson 8 digs; Hope Werch 8 kills, 5 aces, 7 digs; Carley Ramich 7 kills; Bailey LeMarche 34 assists; Kauri Jensen 6 digs.