GREEN BAY — Some volleyball programs are just happy to make it to the state tournament.
The two-time state championship program made its fourth appearance at the WIAA State Girls Volleyball Tournament in the last six seasons on Friday. The second-ranked and second-seeded Pirates came in with high expectations and left stinging after being swept by fourth-ranked La Crosse Aquinas 25-13, 25-17, 25-18 in a Division 3 state semifinal at the Resch Center.
Aquinas (31-3) established leads in all three sets and prevented Waterloo (31-11) from running its offense.
Senior outside hitter Lexi Donarski had 21 kills and senior setter Taylor Theusch had 30 assists for the Blugolds.
Junior outside hitters Joslyn Wolff and Brooke Mosher led Waterloo with 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Sophomore libero Michaela Riege had 15 digs while Mosher had 14 and freshman outside hitter Sophia Schneider added nine. Mosher put up 11 assists. Wolff had eight and Riege added six.
“We had a great season,” Waterloo volleyball coach Christy Mosher said. “We were really pumped to get back to state. I am really proud of the team for that. We prepared. We watched Aquinas on tape. We just saw a couple matches, (including) the sectional final match. We knew we would have our hands full. They played a heck of a match. Hats off to them. We had a hard time slowing down their hitters. The played a really good match despite our best efforts.”
The Pirates struggled consistently on serve-receive, which prevented Mosher from getting into a rhythm. She unleashed some frustration in the closing points of the third set. With her team trailing 23-13, she ran three straight points, starting with a six-pack swing that put one opponent on her seat. She then served an ace and beat the block on her next attack to trim the lead to 23-16. Wolff scored to save one match point at 24-18, but Natalie Warren closed out the match with a tip kill.
Waterloo finished the match with nine receiving errors, but even when the ball was received, the Pirates were rarely in system.
“Their service pressure, I’d rate that pretty high,” coach Mosher said. “We settled down a bit and were able to run our offense, but it was a little too late there. I feel that they targeted us well. They went for the line. They went for the sidelines. They did an excellent job serving.”
Aquinas did a better job on serve-receive, led by junior libero Victoria Nolte (19 digs). That allowed Donarski and middles Courtney Becker (five kills) and Warren (four kills) to tee off while the Pirates were scrambling.
“They had good size, good jumping ability, a good group of athletes,” coach Mosher said. “They were getting a lot of touches on our balls. We hadn’t faced that in a while. We played a tough tournament schedule, but we hadn’t faced anyone with those type of athletes in a while and we were starting to figure it out but it was a little too little, too late.”
“We had trouble in the beginning of all the games,” Wolff said. “Our serve-receive wasn’t our best, but we gave it our all.”
The Pirates have faced teams this good, but not for a month. The tournaments which brought them up against Division 1 and 2 powers were done by September.
“They had really good hitters,” Riege said. “It was a lot of pressure. We haven’t face high hitting pressure in a while (but) I felt like it was a really good experience (to be here).”
The Pirates bid farewell to seniors Sydney Schonhoff, Sara Skalitzky, Chloe Fitzgerald and Anna Lanphier. The rest of the Pirates are returning and figure to be a real motivated group next year.
“I think we all depend on each other and it’s not just one person leading the team,” Brooke Mosher said. “I think we’re going to get right back into it. We feel down right now, but once summer begins, we’re going to get right back into it.”
Aquinas (31-4) fell in three sets to top-ranked Howards Grove (43-4) in the Division 3 state championship match Saturday.