APPLETON – ‘Tis the season to attempt to awaken those from the dead. Most attempts prove to be futile exercises.
But Kimberly showed Saturday it has a certain spirit on its side.
Down 2-0 to Appleton East, a team that already owned a victory over Kimberly this season, the Papermakers resurrected their game and their season as they roared back to win the final three sets and take a 3-2 victory over the Patriots in a WIAA Division 1 girls’ volleyball sectional final before a jam-packed crowd at East.
“I don’t even know,” said Kimberly senior Francesca Wurtz of falling behind 0-2. “Obviously, we had doubts, but we just came together as a team and we knew what we had to do and we just had to believe. We just stuck together and played our hearts out at the end.”
The Papermakers advance to the WIAA State Tournament for the first time since 2004. They open play at the Resch Center in Ashwaubenon on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. against Divine Savior Holy Angels.
East was the early aggressor as it took the first two sets 25-18, 25-21. But after the Papermakers eked out a 25-23 win in the third set, they stayed in control in taking the final two sets 25-20 and 15-9.
Kimberly, the Fox Valley Association champion, lost its only match in league play against the Patriots by a 3-1 score and for a time it appeared history was about to repeat itself.
“I just told them, ‘Hey, you can’t ask for a bigger moment than this,’ ” Kimberly coach Jeff Nieuwenhuis told his team after the second set. “It’s their home place, a place where we lost earlier this year. We’re down two sets to none and I said, ‘You know, that’s just going to make it that much more epic when we come back and win in five.’ “
That it was.
The pivotal third set was back-and-forth throughout. But the Papermakers gained the slight upper hand near the end, leading 19-16, and managed to hang on and put away the Patriots.
“Midway through game three we took the momentum and never gave it back, but hats off to Appleton East,” said Nieuwenhuis. “They’re a scrappy team with some great hitters. They really pounded the ball. … Our defense in sets three, four and five did a great job of stopping them.”
Senior setter Madi Surprise said the Papermakers were able to combine the mental and physical to turn things in their favor.
“We knew who we needed to shut down and that was Mak Morgen, so we put a big block up on her,” she said. “But I think mentally was what changed the next three games.
“It’s crazy. We worked so hard this entire season and we’re never giving up and we’re still not satisfied because we still want to do good things at state.”
The loss left the Patriots stunned and looking for answers that were hard to find.
“That’s the hard part. We were trying to figure that out, too,” said East coach Krista Sitek. “We knew Kimberly wouldn’t fall down and roll over. They came out strong. It was a battle. They came out on top this time. They earned the win.”
In the end, Kimberly lived up to the motto it defined for itself this season.
“Our motto all year has been, ‘Never satisfied,’ ” said Nieuwenhuis. “So down 0-2, we’d get that lead, that’s what we’d say at the timeouts, we’re never satisfied. And they lived that tonight.”
KIMBERLY 3, APPLETON EAST 2
Kimberly beat Appleton East 18-25, 21-25, 25-23, 25-20, 15-9. Kimberly leaders: Claudia Randerson 12 kills; Paige Schuh 19 digs; Sabrina Vandenheuvel 14 kills; Madi Surprise 44 assists; Taylor Huss 6 kills; Hannah Uhlenbrauck 11 kills; Francesca Wurtz 8 kills, 34 digs. Appleton East leaders: Mackenzie Wockenfus 5 kills, 45 assists, 16 digs; Emily Habeck 15 kills, 17 digs; Julia Simo 5 kills, 16 digs; Megan Schweitzer 16 digs; Mak Morgen 25 kills, 15 digs; Shannan Waldo 7 kills.
— Mike Woods: 920-993-1000, ext. 232, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @PCMikeW
Hilbert wins in four sets to advance to state in Division 4 / D8