Make it back-to-back conference titles.
The Waunakee volleyball team was tested this past week, playing in their first five-set contest of the season before heading to Sauk Prairie for the Badger North Conference Tournament. When it was all said and done, the Warriors stood alone atop the Badger North.
Mount Horeb 2
In one of their closest games all year, Waunakee’s five-set victory on Thursday over the Vikings was defined by how they responded to playing from behind.
Mount Horeb twice put the Warriors at a disadvantage, taking both the first and third sets 25-20. Each time, Waunakee found a way to bounce back by taking the next set. The Warriors won set number two 25-22 and then dominated the fourth set, winning 25-14.
“This team does not get rattled at all,” said Waunakee’s Head coach Anne Denkert. “That Thursday was a blessing in disguise, because we hadn’t gone five sets with anybody yet. In the big scheme of things, it’s best to happen then than waiting until playoffs.”
Once in the decisive fifth set, Waunakee finally put the Vikings away, winning 15-12 to notch their 10th straight victory.
Milla Malik led the Warriors in kills with 21 and aces with seven. Jocelyn Meinholz added 18 kills and was tops on the team with 20 digs. Chloe Larsen notched six solo blocks, while Caitlyn Lynch and Sam Miller each recorded 21 assists on the night.
Next, the Warriors made the trip to Sauk Prairie with in hopes of winning the Badger North.
Badger North Conference Tournament
Waunakee opened pool play on Saturday morning against Portage and made quick work of their opponent. Portage never truly threatened to make things close in either set, and Waunakee cruised to a 25-16, 25-17 victory to open the tournament.
Next up was a rematch with Mount Horeb. Neither side was able to sustain any long runs in the first set, and the teams found themselves tied at 25 late in the set. In crunch time, the Warriors pulled out two straight points to take the set 27-25.
Up 1-0, Waunakee completely controlled the second set. The Warriors cruised to a 25-8 win to notch win number two of the tournament.
In their final game of pool play, the Warriors matched up with the Beavers of Reedsburg. Like their first game against Portage, Waunakee was able to keep Reedsburg from building any momentum. The Warriors took another quick two-set contest 25-15, 25-14 to secure one of the four spots in the semifinals.
Joining them in the semifinals were DeForest, Beaver Dam and Mount Horeb. The Norskies and Vikings squared off in one contest, while Waunakee and Beaver Dam played in the other.
With a spot in the final on the line, Waunakee took care of business early against the Golden Beavers. After the Warriors took set number one 25-15, Beaver Dam fought back in the second. Hoping to force a third set, the teams battled back and forth, but Waunakee ultimately secured a close 25-22 victory.
Awaiting the Warriors in the final was Mount Horeb. In their third match in as many days, the tournament title was on the line.
This time around, Mount Horeb came out with everything they had in the first set. The Vikings stole the first set of the tournament from the Warriors in set number one, winning 25-21.
“We just stopped being aggressive; I think we were tipping way too much in the first set,” said Denkert. “When you play a team that many times in a small amount of time, you see what works and what doesn’t work.”
After making a handful of adjustments, Waunakee was back to their winning ways in the second set.
“We started swinging, we got our blocking system down a little bit better – especially against their big outside hitter – and we stopped their lefty better than we did Thursday night,” Denkert added.
After Waunakee took the second set 25-16, the teams headed for a third set with the tournament title on the line. One more time, the Warriors proved to be resilient, taking control to win 15-8 and claiming the Badger North in the process.
“They’re used to [having a target on their back]…” said Denkert. “I don’t think it fazes them. They know what’s coming, and I think the schedule we’ve created over the course of a season of playing really tough teams in the state warrants no fear.”
Malik led the team with 46 kills on .330 hit percentage, followed by 29 from Meinholz. Miller tallied 66 assists and eight aces, while Malik, Meinholz and Krysinski each accounted for six aces. Krysinski was tops on the team in digs with 42, and Chloe Larsen and Claire Holden each had 10 solo blocks.
Waunakee (34-6, 12-0 Badger North) now heads to Watertown on Thursday for the Badger Challenge.
The Warriors then head to Illinois over the weekend for an invite with the playoffs just around the corner. Postseason brackets have not yet been announced by the WIAA, but the first round of the Division 1 tournament is scheduled to begin next Thursday, Oct. 24 at 7 p.m. Should the Warriors receive one of the top two seeds in their sectional, their first game would come at home the following Saturday after a first-round bye.