Success in other sports helps FC girls basketball team reach goals

FALL CREEK - Gianna Vollrath admitted it was nice being the underdog for once.

Phillips was the favorites over the Crickets in last weekend's WIAA Division 4 Sectional No. 1 Tournament championship game. They had the better record, the better ranking and they were at home.

But it was Fall Creek emerging as the sectional champion for the first time since 2015 and it largely has to do with success Vollrath and many of her teammates have had in other sports at Fall Creek High School.

"It really helps that we've been in situations where we know how to get it done, we know how to win and have been successful," Vollrath said. "We've had to deal with the expectations which come from that success in sports like volleyball and cross country. What makes winning this title special is that no one expected this from us and we were able to surprise people."

The Loggers led the Crickets by eight 23-15 at the 3:25 mark of the first half and looked like they could roll up FC in front of their boisterous fans. But the Crickets made an 11-4 run before half which brought them to within 27-24 at halftime. They stayed right with the Loggers until overtaking them late in the ballgame.

"The girls know how to take care of business. They're mentally tough," FC head coach Jason Martzke said. "We did a great job playing a press-up, man-to-man defense the whole way on a team with some great scorers and players on it and it was impressive to watch. They were able to do that, they were able to get through the season through the pandemic. I can't say enough how proud I am of them for what they've accomplished and how fun it's been."

A good number of the FC players have been on back-to-back state tournament teams in volleyball and three-time conference and regional tournament champions. This includes Vollrath, Tori Marten, Hannah Ming, Mackensey Kolpien, Annika Steinke, Emily Madden and Emma Ryan, Katie Kent and Jenna Anders both ran on the Crickets' strong girls' cross country team with Anders a two-time state qualifier. Last year, Ariel Heuer played for the Crickets and qualified for state in golf and helped lead the co-op Osseo-Fairchild/Fall Creek girls team to state.

"Volleyball is a sport we started playing later on in school but basketball is something it seems like you play right from the womb," Madden said. "We've been together on the court since the second grade and it's just so exciting and nice we've been able to stay together and get this far as a team."

And the next and final step on this journey together since they were youngsters is the WIAA Division 4 State Tournament which the Crickets will partake in Friday, Feb. 27 at the La Crosse Center. FC opens up with No. 1 ranked Mishicot at 9:05 a.m. in the D-4 state semifinals.

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