ASHWAUBENON — When a team slams the ball as hard as Divine Savior Holy Angels does, opponents must find ways to keep those sluggers out of rhythm.
Appleton North was able to do that early in the match, but eventually the Dashers’ powerful hitters found a groove and used their smash and bash game to end the Lightning’s season Friday.
North challenged Divine Savior Holy Angels the first two sets, but couldn’t take down the defending state champions in a 3-0 WIAA Division 1 girls’ volleyball state semifinal loss at the Resch Center.
The Dashers (44-5) will look to win their second straight state title today in a 4:30 p.m. championship against Oconomowoc.
Appleton North (35-12) played terrific volleyball the first two sets, but dropped a couple of extremely close sets and couldn’t recover. The Dashers edged the Lightning 28-26 in the opener and followed with a 25-23 win before finishing off North 25-13.
“Games one and two were phenomenal volleyball games,” said North coach Steve Scheuerell. “In game one, the difference was just one play. I’m pretty happy with my team. They fought their hearts out. They just came up against a better team. They outexecuted us and that’s as complete a team as you are going to see.”
The Lightning’s loss in the opening set was especially damaging. North came out strong and built a 17-10 lead. But the Lightning couldn’t finish off the Dashers, who scored 18 of the final 27 points to take the set.
“I was really proud of the way the girls played,” said DSHA coach Caitie Ratkowski. “It was back and forth in that first set, but they showed a lot of heart and confidence the way they pushed through that first set and it carried over to the second. Once we kind of got into our rhythm and figured out what Appleton was bringing at us, we were able to adjust things and finish it.”
Scheuerell felt that the opening set loss made things difficult, but didn’t think it was devastating.
“I don’t think it hurt that much became game two was almost the same,” said Scheuerell. “To put up 26 and 23 points against a team like this is phenomenal.”
The Lightning trailed 23-16 in the second set and made an inspired late run at the Dashers, but came up short. The third set belonged to DSHA, which dominated all the way.
“When it came down to it, they just outexecuted us,” said North senior Alyssa Wolslegel, who led the Lightning with nine kills. “All year long we’ve played to the very last point and I don’t think I could have expected anything else from this team. We have that dig or die mentality.”
The Dashers were led by a couple of prolific 6-foot-1 outside hitters: Annie Ertz, who had 16 kills, and Katie Arnold, who added 14.
“They had some big hitters,” said Scheuerell. “I thought their setter did a phenomenal job of reading our blocks and getting it to the right matchups. They’re just a well-oiled machine and I think they have a real good shot in the championship game.”
Carrisa Beyer had a team-high nine digs and Callie Pohlman chipped in with eight for North.
“Both teams wanted it,” said Wolslegel. “When you’ve fought for something so long, it’s tough to finally say this is the end. But I’m really proud of how we fought to the finish. I love them so much.”
It was the second state tournament appearance for the Lightning, who will graduate eight seniors.
“We fought our hardest,” said senior Clare Christopher, fighting off tears. “The score doesn’t matter. We can’t change that. But going forward, we’ll always have each other’s back in life and we’ll never forget each other.”
DIVINE SAVIOR HOLY ANGELS 3, APPLETON NORTH 0
Divine Holy Savior Angels beat Appleton North 28-26, 25-23, 25-13. Appleton North leaders: Alyssa Wolslegel 9 kills; Jenna Miller 4 kills; Carissa Beyer 9 digs; Callie Pohlman 8 digs; Emily Rohloff 11 assists; Maddy Ahrens 8 assists; Clare Christopher 6 digs. Divine Holy Savior Angels leaders: Annie Ertz 16 kills, 12 digs; Katie Arnold 14 kills; Grace Novotny 36 assists.
Tim Froberg: 920-993-1000, ext. 423, or firstname.lastname@example.org; on Twitter @twfroberg