Warriors' road leads back to state tourney
Muskego volleyball team makes fifth straight trip
Muskego - Minutes after winning their WIAA Division 1 sectional championship match on Saturday, the members of Muskego's girls volleyball team ran through a "human tunnel."
A large number of students were standing in groups of two, facing each other with their arms bent above them and their hands joining at the top to effectively form an arch.
The groups lined up next to each other to create a tunnel, and the Muskego players ducked their heads and ran joyfully along the path, turning at the end, circling back to the beginning and running through a second time.
They were happy because once again, that tunnel is leading them right back toward the Resch Center in Green Bay for this weekend's state tournament.
The Warriors had just beaten a tenacious Greenfield team, 25-23, 25-11, 25-22, to win the sectional crown and earn a return trip to state, starting with a quarterfinal matchup against Merrill at 4:30 p.m. Thursday.
Muskego is quite familiar with the road to state. This is the Warriors' 12th trip in school history, the ninth under head coach Karen Anderson and their fifth straight.
The Warriors, who lost in the quarterfinals last season to eventual runner-up Fond du Lac, won state crowns in 2005 and 2009.
"It's really exciting," junior Jordan Wachowiak said. "This is my third year, and we've gone to state all three years I've been here. We really wanted to do it for our seniors this year, because it means the world to them."
One of those seniors, Kelly Spoerk, said, "It feels amazing. All of us worked so hard for it, and we wanted it so badly."
Greenfield puts up a good fight
Greenfield, though, was able to stay right with Muskego in the first and third sets. The Hustlin' Hawks held a 13-9 lead on a kill by junior Jessie Kalous midway through the first contest, but the Warriors ran off six straight points to assume a 15-13 advantage.
Greenfield came back to tie the set four times, the last at 21-21 on a kill from sophomore Sam Deleon.
Muskego senior Mary O'Connor put down three kills for a 24-22 lead, then junior Kayla Bluemel slapped down the game-winning point.
"Thanks to Morgan (sophomore setter Morgan Kath), who was working hard," O'Connor said. "I really wanted those points."
Muskego dominated the second game, going on a 6-0 run to take a 14-5 advantage and coasting from there. O'Connor closed things out with another late trio of kills.
The Hawks bounced back and held a 14-11 lead in the third game, but Muskego again answered, tying matters at 15-15 on back-to-back kills from Bluemel.
The game was still even at 22-22 when Muskego scored the final three points, including an ace from junior Lauren Kudronowicz and a pair of kills, including the match-winning point, from Kath.
"We wanted it so much," Spoerk said. "I don't think any of us could possibly imagine losing, especially after all we went through (this season).
O'Connor totaled 13 kills and Bluemel six, while Kath finished with 30 assists, Wachowiak four blocks and junior Michelle Fugarino 14 digs and three aces.
"The thing that's so great about these kids," Anderson said, "is that this was just a total team victory. Everybody participated, and that's what we have to have. Mary did some great stuff and other kids did some really nice stuff as well. We don't have that one stud; we need everybody to help, and everybody did tonight."
O'Connor said, "We really worked as a team. We pulled it together."
Greenfield head coach Britany Pfeifer, whose team won its division in the Woodland Conference this year, praised the Warriors.
"Muskego is a fantastic team," Pfeifer said. "We'd have to play almost perfectly to win. They (the Warriors) have weapons offensively everywhere. I was very proud of how we played, and the fact that we were able to stay with them as well as we did."
In the sectional semifinal on Oct. 25, Union Grove also gave Muskego a real battle, but again the Warriors prevailed, 25-22, 25-20, 25-21, as O'Connor tallied 14 kills, Kath 36 assists, Fugarino 18 digs and three aces and Kudronowicz five blocks.
Now the relentless Warriors are headed back to state.
"This (trip) is the most exciting one for me," Wachowiak said, "because our team was so underestimated."
Perhaps this year's Warriors were indeed not as highly regarded as some of the previous teams, but as Spoerk said, "I guess we were underrated, but I think we won't be anymore."
WHAT: WIAA Division 1 State Girls Volleyball Tournament
WHERE: Resch Center, Green Bay
THURSDAY, NOV. 1
Quarterfinals: Neenah vs. Divine Savior Holy Angels, 4:30 p.m.; Merrill vs. Muskego, 4:30 p.m.; Sun Prairie vs. Menomonee Falls, 7:30 p.m.; De Pere vs. Burlington, 7:30 p.m.
FRIDAY, NOV. 2
Semifinals, 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, NOV. 3
Championship match, 5:30 p.m.
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