Prep volleyball conference title chase scrambled after this week

It's Fall Creek's to lose but don't think they aren't aware of that.

The No. 2 Crickets may stand atop the prep volleyball standings in the West Cloverbelt Conference at 3-0 after sweeping Bloomer Thursday evening, Sept. 23 by a 3-0 score.

But they know the race for the league title isn't over yet, not after Stanley-Boyd pulled off a shocking upset of No. 4 ranked Chippewa Falls McDonell yesterday 26-24, 25-21, 25-22 at Stanley-Boyd.

FC, 29-1 overall, still has to play Stanley-Boyd next Thursday, Sept. 30 at Fall Creek at 7:15 p.m.

And Osseo-Fairchild still has to take on McDonell, but at least there's still a chance for a possible two to three-way tie for the league title after O-F dispatched S-B 3-1 a week ago.

But you still have to take care of business in front of you too. The Thunder lost two close games to Eau Claire Regis, still winless in league action so far, last night but rallied to beat the Rambers 3-2 at Regis.

No doubt the Thunder, 10-2 overall, were still shaking off the after affects of a close 3-2, back n' forth loss to FC at home back on Tuesday, Sept. 21. Despite some outstanding performances from players like seniors Brooke McCune and Mariah Steinke and junior Madisyn Loonstra, O-F still couldn't get at the Crickets despite 15 aces on their part serving. FC had 12 such aces and they also had their all-state player Gianna Vollrath come through with 25 kills and Tori Marten with seven kills to lead the way.

Still, the Crickets came through against two of their toughest opponents in league so far which pleases head coach Matt Prissel.

"We are thrilled that we were able to come out on top of those two nerve-wracking matches," Prissel said. "Every night in the Western Cloverbelt is a battle, but to open up the conference season with two quality programs like Chippewa Falls McDonell and Osseo-Fairchild is a challenging endeavor. We knew both matches had the potential to be real slug-fests and that is exactly what they were. What impressed me the most about our victories in both matches is we had to overcome adversity at multiple points in both of them. Getting down 0-2 to McDonell is a really tough spot to recover from, but before we went out for Game 3, in our team huddle we talked about battling on every point and doing the best we could to win the race to 25 first. We knew we played poorly in the second set and wanted to give them a better showing in the next one and we talked about we cannot win all the remaining sets at once, but if we start playing and focus on winning this set first, we get to keep playing and see what happens and hopefully we can make it interesting by the end of the night. With the Osseo-Fairchild match, it was more of riding that roller coaster that we try to avoid with winning Games 1 and 3 and losing 2 and 4 to set the stage for the final set. We showed glimpses of solid play, but didn't keep it going long enough and the Thunder capitalized as good teams do. With McCune and Steinke being their go-to-girls, we knew we were going to have our hands full all night. One of our focuses this year is making an emphasis to 'finish the deal'. In both of those matches, we have really had to work with and commit to that mindset to and make sure we play to our best ability to the last point of the night. Thankfully, things went our way and we earned hard fought victories over excellent programs."

And they also know its not over yet and won't be over until the final game of the league season as three teams have two wins so far and three more have at least one win.

"To keep our team sharp as we go forward, we are going to keep focusing on whoever we are playing next," Prissel said. "We don't worry about who we see in a couple weeks or who we might play in the tournament series, we take it one game at a time and prepare for the opponent in front of us as we know in the Western Cloverbelt there are no easy matches. We know whoever is up next on our schedule is the best team we are playing that night and we have to go out and take care of business in every match. In practice, we focus on the areas from the match before that we need to improve upon and implement any particular game planning for our next opponent. Our girls in the Fall Creek Volleyball program know that our goal is just to try to go out and do our jobs and play to the best of our ability and try to go 1-0 each night."

Next week's league matches have Fall Creek hosting Regis along with S-B while O-F is at home vs. Thorp, also 2-1 in the league, and then Cadott.

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