APPLETON – Volleyball players, so it seems, need to remember to forget.
Appleton North High School’s Brian Jones, #11, spikes the ball against Kimberly High School during their boys volleyball sectional semifinal match at Appleton North High School on Tuesday, November 4, 2014, in Appleton, Wis. Joshua Bessex/ Post-Crescent Media
“I think part of what we did a good job of tonight was working to the next point,” said North coach Mike Maass. “We had some hard points that we lost and we didn’t let it affect us for too many points afterward. That’s the difference.
“I think it’s hard to do in volleyball in general. To be a really good team you have to not give up runs. If you can stay patient and wait for your opportunities, that’s what you want to do. But it doesn’t always happen that way.”
It did for the Lightning on Tuesday, as it won nearly all the big points in taking the first two sets over Kimberly 25-23, 25-23 before it closed out the Papermakers 25-14 in the third set to win a WIAA sectional semifinal at North High School.
Second-seeded North will face top seed Kaukauna in the sectional final Thursday at 7 p.m. at Green Bay West. The Ghosts, who went unbeaten this year in the Fox Valley Association, own a pair of victories over the FVA runners-up Lightning this season.
North grabbed a 14-13 lead over Kimberly in the opener and never gave it up, though it could never build its lead to more than three points. Kimberly trailed 23-20 but closed to 24-23 before the Lightning came up with the critical point.
“Those big points, we just know if you win those it’s a lot of momentum,” said North senior Liam Mahoney, who finished with 16 kills and 11 digs. “Our coach always stresses that it’s a game of momentum, so we really want those points.”
Another tight game ensued in set two with the lead exchanging hands four times. Once again, the Lightning took control late and led 24-20, and again Kimberly came roaring back to close within 24-23. But this time Kimberly’s serve went long on set point.
“The first two games were back and forth, I was pleased with how we were playing,” said Kimberly coach Matt Seidl. “We needed one of the first two games, because the third game we just fell apart.
“It’s tough to come back from 0-2 down. We haven’t done it this year. So I think mentally that’s a tough thing to do.”
Especially when your opponent knows it can relax and play a little more free.
“It brings us all the momentum,” said Lightning senior setter Kody Fiorito, who finished with 32 assists. “All the pressure is on them. They’ve got to make every single play, every single point. It’s really a lot easier for us because we’re not under that pressure.”
All systems were go for the Lightning in the final set, as it quickly built a 17-7 lead on the way to an easy win.
“I think our passing really got us over the top,” said Fiorito. “We haven’t been the greatest passing team all season but they really showed it tonight. They did a great job defensively and we did a great job blocking and serving. So it was pretty much an entire team effort.”
Which is precisely what North will need again come Thursday against the Ghosts.
“First and foremost we’re going to have to play hard,” said Maass. “We’re going to have to play loose and like I said about the third game, we’re going to have to be aggressive from the very first point. That’s one thing we need to do a better job of, still, is coming out and attacking.”
APPLETON NORTH 3, KIMBERLY 0
Appleton North beat Kimberly 25-23, 25-23, 25-14. Kimberly leaders: Eddie Jansen 14 kills; Steve Behnke 13 kills, 4 blocks; Brice Swick 7 kills; Michael Brouillard 14 digs; Brice Winnen 9 digs; Jalen Buchberger 27 assists; Josh Mader 2 kills, 4 blocks; Anthony Heinz 6 kills. Appleton North leaders: Ryan Driessen 10 digs; Galen Rakestraw 5 kills; Liam Mahoney 16 kills, 11 digs; Brian Jones 5 kills; Kody Fiorito 32 assists; Dennis Garvey 5 kills.
— Mike Woods: 920-993-1000, ext. 232, or email@example.com; on Twitter @PCMikeW
Watch Appleton North win the last point to take the sectional semifinal victory over Kimberly at postcrescent.com