GREEN BAY - A quarterfinal loss in the 2018 WIAA State Tournament has been the driving force of the Sun Prairie volleyball team the entire 2019 season.
The 12th-ranked Cardinals return to the Division 1 State Girls Volleyball Tournament at the Resch Center in Green Bay this weekend, not only trying and avenge last year’s 3-1 loss to Oconomowoc, but win the program’s first state championship.
Sun Prairie (41-7) received the No. 8 seed and will play top-seeded Hartland Arrowhead (38-3), ranked No. 1 by the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association, in a 7 p.m. state quarterfinal game Thursday.
“Yes we are, for sure,” said junior outside hitter Payton Addink about winning a state title.
“We’re going back to win,” added senior middle hitter Kirsten Anderson.
Both Addink and Anderson were on the Resch Center floor when Oconomowoc, the 2018 Division 1 runner-up, dealt them a 25-16, 25-22, 20-25, 25-16 opening-round defeat.
Also on the court was K.J. McNabb. The 5-foot-9 senior outside hitter committed to play at Loyola University in Chicago, leads the team with 428 kills to go along with 66 service aces, 254 digs and 51 assists. She has a .283 hitting percentage.
Also driving the Cardinals was a mid-season defeat to Verona, which ultimately kept them from winning a fourth consecutive Big Eight Conference title.
"That loss stung, but we used that sting to take it to this game because we never wanted to feel that way ever again," said senior outside hitter K.J. McNabb following Sun Prairie’s 3-1 sectional semifinal win over the Wildcats. "I had a feeling we were going to be back playing them again and I’m glad we did.”
Since that Sept. 26 loss, the Cardinals are 19-3 and riding a 12-game winning streak into the tournament.
Sun Prairie finished second to Verona in the Big Eight standings with an 8-1 mark, but got even with the Wildcats defeating them in the tournament championship game.
Addink, a 6-1 junior outside hitter, will play at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. She leads the Cardinals with 113 aces and is second on the team in both kills (240) and digs (256).
Anderson and fellow senior Emily Mickelson are also having terrific seasons. Anderson, a 5-10 middle blocker, has 183 kills and 107 block assists while Mickelson, a 5-3 libero, leads the team with 292 digs.
The starting rotation also includes juniors Josie Halblieb and Maggie Allaman. Halbleib, a 6-2 setter, has a team-high 941 assists while Allaman, a 5-10 middle blocker, has 156 kills and 61 block assists.
T.J. Rantala, in her 13th season as head coach, has a record of 426-174.
The Warhawks, champions of the Classic Eight Conference, are led by senior Aubrey Hamilton, a Notre Dame recruit. The 6-foot-2 outside hitter leads the team with 459 kills and an attack percentage of .453.
Arrowhead’s overall size will be tough for Sun Prairie to match up against. Hamilton, junior middle hitter Lindsay Krznarich (6-3, 104 kills) and senior utility Elilse Schneider (6-1, 217), a Wofford University commit, all stand above six foot.
Junior setter/right-side hitter Jade Stefen leads Arrowhead with 1,022 assists, while senior libero Emily Larson has a 221 digs.
Janelle Hobbs, in her fourth season as head coach, has a record of 148-38.
The two-time defending state champion Demons return to state for a sixth-straight season.
The Southern Lakes champions (36-4) are led by senior middle blocker (265 kills), junior outside hitter Mackenzie Lynch (228 kills, 222 digs) and sophomore outside hitter Morgan Klein (246 kills).
Burlington is the No. 4 seed and plays No. 5 Union Grove.
The Broncos are making its third state tournament appearance and first since 1985.
Union Grove (41-5) finished second to Burlington in the SLC.
Senior outside hitters Olivia Dir and Bailey Berger lead the team in kills with 403 and 255, respectively, while senior setter Karlee Lois has 817 assists.
Annie Sireno is in her ninth year (fifth at Union Grove) as head coach and owns a record of 196-143.
The Wildcats has reached the state tournament four-straight years, but has yet to win a state title.
The third-seeded Cats (37-6) are led by senior outside hitters Emily Barritt (317 kills, 288 digs) and Halle Olson (309 kills).
River Falls won the Big Rivers Conference.
Sara Kelly is 284-104 in 10 seasons as River Falls’ head coach.
River Falls plays No. 6 Appleton North.
The Lightning are making its fifth state tournament appearance.
Appleton North (32-11) won the Fox Valley Association and are led by senior outside hitter Brooke Cantrell (340 kills), junior setter Brooke Bolwerk (581 assists) and sophomore right-side hitter Bella Van Lannen (147 kills).
Steve Scheuerell is 301-160 in 12th seasons as head coach.
The Racoons are making their fourth consecutive trip to state but are looking for their first title after runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2018.
Oconomowoc (37-3) finished runner-up to Hartland Arrowhead in the Classic Eight.
Northern Iowa recruit Tayler Alden, a senior setter, leads the Racoons with 968 assists and has 205 kills, sophomore outside hitter Maleah Howe has team-high in kills (272) and aces (410), and junior outside hitter Kaitlyn Bingham has 241 kills.
Michelle Bruss is 321-110 in 11 seasons as head coach.
Oconomowoc is a No. 2 seed and plays No. 7 Kettle Moraine
The Lasers are making their first-ever state tournament appearance.
Kettle Moraine (29-13) finished third in the Classic Eight behind Arrowhead and Oconomowoc. They are led by the Grocholski sisters. Hailey, a senior middle hitter, leads the team with 325 kills while right behind is Grace, a freshman outside hitter, with 303.
Shane Peterson is 686-539 in 12 seasons.
The 2019 WIAA State Tournament runs Thursday through Saturday.
Saturday’s Division championship game will be played at 7:30 p.m.