Prep Volleyball Review and Preview: Fall Creek begins Cloverbelt title defense with big over rival Osseo-Fairchild

Crickets wins despite injury to team captain; Tri-County's DC teams get needed league wins

There's a big difference between quad and weekend meets in prep volleyball and conference play.

"This is Tuesday Night Lights, this is the real deal right here," Fall Creek head coach Matt Prissel said as his Crickets began the defense of their multi-season West Cloverbelt Conference title once against rival Osseo-Fairchild. "Here you have student sections, a pep band, more fans, five-game matches. You use those early season invites and quads and triangulars to find the right rotations and the players for them for these conference matches."

And it really was the real deal for the Crickets as they found themselves in serious predicament without one of their team captains and best players, junior outside hitter Emaille Sorensen. She injured her knee during warm-ups and was down on the floor for several minutes as team members and the whole gymnasium looked on.

"I was was shocked, obviously it was not something you expect," fellow team captain, senior middle blocker Tori Marten said. "But I couldn't show it. I couldn't let it affect the team. The other captains and I, we knew we had to rally everyone together and stay strong for Emallie and for all of us to get the win."

And how as FC rallied together for a 3-2 victory over the Thunder at home during its Homecoming and Parent's Night match against the Thunder. Game scores were 19-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-21, 15-11.

"We played well, we played as well anyone could expect us could do without one of our best players and doing so with kids out of position, playing new positions, just drawing up and doing a lot of things on the fly really. I could be more proud of team in their heart, attitude, guts, grit, mental toughness you name it. To compensate for what we lost, we had to be all that and more against a very good Osseo-Fairchild team."

The turning point may have come in Game 3 even though it was a loss for Crickets. Down 14-6 and being battered by the tall and athletic O-F frontline, perhaps suffering from some fatigue scrapping as hard they could, the Crickets still found enough energy thanks to kills from Marten and sophomore middle blocker Anna Dougherty. Again and again they both scored kills to prevent O-F from an easy, demoralizing Game 3 win, at one point taking the lead 18-17 and an ace by Martin, before the Thunder outlasted them to win 25-22. The momentum carried over as Fall Creek was able to win Game 4 by a 25-20 score after taking a 10-2 lead to start out and leading 22-11 at one point. With Game 5 tied at 7-7, two kills by Dougherty and two aces by Fitch put FC up 12-8 and for good. Not even a wrong server mistake which cost them a point could stop their momentum after a Martin kills sent them on their way to a most unlikely win.

Tori Marten led the way for FC with 15 Kills and four aces. Dougherty had 10 kills. Sophomore setter Lauren Dallas made 18 assists while Fitch had 18 assists as well to go with four aces. Sophomore libero Grace Herrem had a team-best 34 digs and senior Marissa Dunham finished with 16 digs. Besides these stats leaders for FC, there were many other contributions to victory.

"I thought JaneyAnne Grossinger played great from her setter's spot and showed great senior leadership," Prissel said. "Grace was outstanding as a libero and you had plays coming from Sophie Johnson, playing the middle for the first time, (junior) Caroline Grossinger, (sophomore) Kennedy Tumm, (sophomore) Gracie Marten, I mean, at one point we had six inexperienced players out there and they rose up and together to get the job done."

After an uneven first half of the season in all the invites, quads and triangulars, Prissel thinks his squad may have found somerthign in themselves they've been looking for since the start of the season as the crickets improve to 14-10 overall, 1-0 in the West Cloverbelt. But its a long road ahead as league play got underway this week and may well have to be travelled without Sorenson for some time. Fall Creek's next match is at Bloomer on Tuesday, Sept. 20 and the Crickets host Eau Claire Regis on Thursday, Sept. 22.

"I hope this experience makes us a better team both on and off the court Prissel said. "Emallie was on the sidlelines, cheering her teammates on even though she was in tears at times because she wanted to be out there so bad. But we were playing for her and we shouted 'Emallie' every time we broke our huddles. If it helped us stay strong, close out games or fire us up, that's a wonderful statement to how we stepped up in the heat of the moment but we have to carry that through now for the rest of the season."

At the Sparta Invitational played on Sept. 10, the Crickets went 2-3. Fall Creek def. Arcadia 25-12, 25-15, lost to Eau Claire North 25-22, 25-19; lost to Wonewoc-Center 25-17, 25-21; beat G-E-T 25-22, 25-17 but lost to Sparta 15-25, 26-24, 15-12. Tori Marten finished the day with 25 kills, 34 digs, five blocks; Sorensen had 19 kills, 20 digs, seven aces; Fitch had 40 assists while Dallas had 37 assists; Herrem came away with 38 digs and six aces and Dougherty had six aces and six blocks.

Despite the loss which put them at 8-6 overall and 0-1 to start league action, Osseo-Fairchild had some great individual efforts such as senior Hailey Mayer's eight aces and two kills, Fellow seniors Rhiannon Prudlick had six kills, two blocks and an ace, Madisyn Loonstra notched six kills, five blocks and a pair of aces, Taylor Gunderson had 11 kills and an ace and four kills were tallied from Katie Skoug. The loss to their rivals also blunted the momentum the Thunder had coming out of a third place showing at the Debbi Roesler Memorial Invite hosted by Chippewa Falls McDonell held last weekend, Sept. 10. O-F downed Cameron and Loyal during round-robin play, losing to the host Macks and Elk Mound but beating the Mounders in the third place match. O-F will regroup starting next Tuesday, Sept. 20 at home vs. Eau Claire Regis and next Thursday, Sept. 22 at Thorp.

Dairyland Conference action got underway last week Thursday, Sept. 8. Both Tri-County DC teams started out on the wrong foot as Blair-Taylor defeated Augusta 25-16, 25-17, 25-16 at B-T and Lincoln defeated Eleva-Strum 21-25, 25-21, 25-12, 19-25, 15-12 in Alma Center. But both squads bounced back on Tuesday, Sept. 13 as Eleva-Strum defeated Alma/Pepin 26-24, 25-19, 25-21 at home and Augusta defeated Gilmanton 25-10, 25-23, 22-25, 25-18, at Augusta. Augusta's record is 2-4 overall while Eleva-Strum got a much-needed win to snap a losing streak and improve to 5-7 overall. Central was in action Thursday, Sept. 15 at Cochrane-Fountain City while Augusta hosts a quadrangular Saturday, Sept. 17 with Nekoosa, Cadott and Necedah. Next Tuesday in Dairyland play, Augusta is at Independence and Eleva-Strum hosts Immanuel and then next Thursday, Sept. 22 Whitehall is at Augusta and Eleva-Strum is at Blair-Taylor.

The Eleva-Strum Invitational meet is set for Saturday, Sept. 24 starting at 9 a.m. and includes Augusta and Osseo-Fairchild along with the host Cardinals.

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