WIAA state volleyball: Auburndale advances to D3 title game

WIAA state volleyball: Auburndale advances to D3 title game

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WIAA state volleyball: Auburndale advances to D3 title game

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GREEN BAY

Shannon Yahnke slammed the final point into the Resch Center floor pumped her fist and then turned from the net to hug teammate Kendra Kundinger.

Just a few feet away, Hannah Castellano dropped to the floor as members of the Auburndale volleyball team surrounded her in celebration of the squad’s latest — and biggest — win over a ranked opponent in the postseason.

Camille Swart had 20 kills and Yahnke added 14 kills as Auburndale knocked off No. 3 Racine St. Catherine’s in five sets Friday in a WIAA Division 3 state semifinal matchup 25-22, 28-26, 20-25, 15-25, 15-10.

Auburndale (34-6), is playing in the title game for the first time in three state tournament appearances, and faces Eau Claire Regis at 11:30 a.m. today.

“This is something that we have been hoping for forever,” Yahnke said. “It’s a dream come true.”

The win was the continuation of Auburndale’s playoff run.

It was Auburndale’s fifth five-set win in six postseason matches, and every playoff opponent received at least honorable mention consideration in the final Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association state poll of the regular season.

“When we lost the fourth game, I just said, ‘We’re just going to do this (Auburndale) style. We have been here before and we know what to do.’ We just came out ready to play,” Auburndale coach Peggy Empey said. “We know anything is possible when we play together and push each other. We know if we can clear out our mistakes, we can play our top game.”

Abby Jeffcoat, a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit, led St. Catherine’s with 33 kills but also had a match-high 11 hitting errors.

“We knew that No. 6 (Jeffcoat) was a huge hitter, so we made sure that we had blockers strong up on her,” Empey said. “We wanted to make sure that we were playing aggressively ourselves, but also putting up a big block.”

Auburndale was not ranked in the final poll, which provided some motivation for the postseason.

“I just kept thinking they don’t know what we have, so we have to go out and prove ourselves,” said Swart, who lost a contact after being hit in the face with the ball while going up for a block attempt in the fifth set. “We’re just proving ourselves every single day and I think it’s working.”

Auburndale may have been considered the underdog against St. Catherine’s, but looked like the more composed team early, scoring the last four points to win the opening set. Auburndale then took control of the match by getting a kill on its third attempt at a set point in the back-and-forth second set.

Racine St. Catherine’s, which had lost one set in the previous 10 matches combined coming in, hit at a .325 and .393 percentage over the next two sets to tie the match.

Auburndale then jumped out to a 10-5 lead in the fifth set as Racine St. Catherine’s hitting percentage dropped to .115.

“I think what carried us through the most was holding each other up. We talked about holding the rope and not letting each other drop,” Empey said. “We had some players that were kind of getting down, and the other team was getting in their head a little bit (in sets three and four), but we never stopped. (The players) kept expecting more from each other and pushing each other. They pulled each other right up.”

Auburndale def. Racine St. Catherine’s 25-22, 28-26, 20-25, 15-25, 15-10.

Leaders: St.C-Abby Jeffcoach 33 kills, 11 digs. Natalia Iruegas 13 kills. Lauren Musurlian 19 digs. Ellie LeCount 54 assists. A-Camille Swart 20 kills. Kelly Brokish 15 digs. Kendra Kundinger 36 assists, 14 digs. Hannah Castellano 26 digs. Shannon Yahnke 13 kills.

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