KAUKAUNA — Playing like they had a trigonometry test first thing in the morning with a need to get home and study, the Kaukauna boys’ volleyball team needed little more than an hour to defeat the Kimberly Papermakers in three sets Tuesday.
The 25-16, 25-17, 25-16 win in the WIAA sectional semifinal advances Kaukauna to Thursday’s 7 p.m. sectional final, where the Ghosts will face Appleton North.
“Our main focus was on focus and effort,” Ghosts middle hitter Zach Schmidt said. “These last few practices we had we really had to just grind. We know we had to come out and play good to set the tempo for Appleton North on Thursday.”
Most impressive was Kaukauna’s ability to have multiple players attack from a variety of positions on the court.
In the first set, the Ghosts were leading 16-13 when Dalton Erdman stepped up, using powerful shots from the left front court to the right back court, to finish five of Kaukauna’s last nine points.
“That starts with the coaching,” Erdman said. “Coach emphasizes hitting high and hitting deep corners because that’s what’s open. I just follow what he says and executed tonight and it worked out good.”
The Papermakers could not just focus on taking Erdman out of the match, though.
“We’ve got a lot of other weapons,” Kaukauna coach Tom Belling said. “You have to focus on Erdman but when you do, you’re probably going to pay for it.”
Those other weapons became more obvious in the second and third sets, with Sam Neuber, Ben Brochtrup and Schmidt getting their share of kills.
“It’s a very nice problem for us to have,” Belling said. “We’ve got hitters all over the court.”
Having those hitters made it difficult for Kimberly to set up double blocks.
“If we’re in system, you’ve got to pick your poison,” Belling said. “If you want to try to double, are you really going to leave someone open? I hope we’re a difficult team to block.”
The Papermakers tried to play consistently and have strong ball control to keep Kaukauna from establishing momentum, but that was difficult to do against the top-ranked Ghosts.
“Unfortunately, their (Kaukauna’s) good serves kind of took that away right from the get-go,” Kimberly coach Matt Seidl said. “We were kind of scrambling the rest of the match. We felt like we could never get there. It started to come back in the last set. We had some good passes and put the ball away. But a good team like that — probably the best team in the state — they make you look pretty bad.”
Against the Ghosts, Kimberly needed to play as close to error free as possible and hope that Kaukauna would open the door for the Papermakers by committing errors.
“I think they maybe gave us one or two free balls,” Seidl said. “Otherwise, everything was attack. Attack hard, aggressive. You really have to earn every point. That’s what good teams do to you.”
Putting constant pressure on their opponent is possible because of what the Ghosts have been working on in recent practices.
“Just the little things,” Schmidt said. “The few games that we lost, we had way too many errors serving, blocking, hitting. We just stayed aggressive and focused on not focusing on making errors but focusing on making better plays.”
Kaukauna beat Kimberly 25-16, 25-17, 25-16. Kaukauna leaders: Dalton Erdman 18 kills; Sam Neuber 12 kills; Ben Brochtrup 7 kills; Zach Schmidt 4 kills; Cooper Diedrich 39 assists. Kimberly leaders: Michael Cartwright 20 assists, 2 aces; Nicholas Beck 5 kills; Josh Mader 8 kills, 3 blocks; Nate Ruplinger 14 digs; Erik Saxby 9 digs; Peyton Hietpas 8 digs; Caleb Lacount 4 kills; Sam Radtke 5 kills; Zak Eckrose 2 blocks, 5 digs.
Jim Oskola: 920-993-1000, ext. 230, or email@example.com