Tri-County Area Prep Volleyball Update: Fall Creek wins key league match, struggles in tourney
The No. 3 ranked Fall Creek High School Volleyball Team won a key match last week in Western Cloverbelt Conference but struggled in a weekend tournament at Bloomer.
FC downed Stanley-Boyd by a 3-0 score last week Thursday, Sept. 30, their final regular season home match. Now 5-0 in the WCC, the Crickets can wrap-up the title this week in matches at Cadott and Thorp.
The Crickets built strong leads in all three games vs. S-B and won them 25-20, 25-14 and 25-19 thanks to the serving of Sam Olson and the net play Olson, Gianna Vollrath and Tori Marten, going straight up against the Orioles top hitters Emily Brenner and Lily Hoel.
"Our match against Stanley-Boyd was our best defensive effort of the season," FC head coach Matt Prissel said. "Every match Gianna Vollrath is a force at the net and we expect that, but against Stanley-Boyd Tori Marten did a fantastic job with some big blocks and important touches to slow down their offensive attack. When we prepare for teams with our blockers, we tend to focus on tendencies of the other team if we know them and try to get in various reps that will help us for that match. We knew that Brenner and Hoel are legitimate hitters so the night before in practice we worked on timing and reaction within the blocking portion of practice and even though those two players did get some kills, we were able to slow them down a bit which also helps our backrow defense. We also emphasized trying to close up seams to give their hitters fewer lanes to find the court. The other thing that helps our defense is our girls have to practice against each other and they get some great opportunities in practice. Tori Marten gets to match up with Gianna Vollrath in drill work and certainly that experience is helping Tori to become a stronger presence in the middle for our team. I also need to give our backrow a ton of credit for their work in the Stanley-Boyd match and the rest of the season for that matter. Our Libero Hannah Herrem, Defensive Specialist Catrina Cline, and when Gianna goes backrow--all 3 of them are doing a great job as well and dig up whatever our block doesn't stop or slow down."
FC's stats for the match had Vollrath with 11 kills, 12 digs and three blocks; Sam Olson 12 assists, 16 digs and four aces; Tori Marten nine kills and three blocks; Hannah Herrem 18 digs and Anika Steinke 12 assists.
The Orioles, 15-4 overall, made runs in all three games but FC withstood them. Prissel said the team has done a good job learning to play with momentum in their favor.
"We do talk about playing sharp from the start of each set and each match," Prissel said. "In practice we work on "situations" and one of those situations we work on often is trying to win the race to five points first. By us getting to five points first that gives us both confidence and momentum as we continue in the set. Volleyball is such a momentum sport, we try to do what we can to keep the momentum on our side of the net throughout the game, but starting and finishing strong I would argue is probably the most important. Certainly, coaching with a lead is easier than trying to play catch-up, but even with a lead we emphasize to keep putting pressure on the other team and to 'keep our foot on the gas pedal' so we don't get complacent. When we have a lead, I can be a little bit more strategic with my time-out use and I believe that a time-out used in the right moment can be extremely helpful to bring momentum back to us or to make an adjustment to get us back in system."
But the momentum from the win over Stanley-Boyd didn't last into Saturday, Oct. 2nd tournament at Bloomer. There FC finished sixth, going 1-3. They lost to Chippewa Falls 25-20, 25-20, to Bloomer 16-25, 26-24 and 15-13 beat Osceola 25-12, 25-11 in pool play but fell to Ladysmith in the fifth place match 25-19, 27-25. Fall Creek's record is now 37-4 overall.
"The tournament field was strong with a number of really good teams," Prissel said. "We competed well against a strong Chippewa Falls team in our first match of the day. In our second match of the day with Bloomer, we started strong in Set 1, but in Sets 2 and 3, Bloomer took advantage of our mistakes as good teams do and they executed at a higher level than we did. Overall, throughout the day, we didn't take care of our side of the net at the level we usually do and the other teams made big plays when they needed to. We are going to get back in the gym this week and get back to work together to try to get stronger in the areas where weaknesses showed so we can be ready for the end of the conference season and post-season push."
For the day, Vollrath finished with 44 kills, 40 digs and five blocks. Olson had 40 assists, 30 digs, 15 kills and five aces, Herrem 50 digs, Catrina Cline 24 digs, Marten 17 kills, five blocks and Steinke 34 assists.
Osseo-Fairchild kept pace with Fall Creek in the league standings a game back by sweeping Cadott last Thursday 25-15, 25-18 and 25-14 to improve to 18-2 overall. The Thunder close out league play this week against two tough opponents in No. 4 ranked Chippewa Falls McDonell and Bloomer.
Both Tri-County teams in the Dairyland Conference were winners last Thursday as well with Eleva-Strum winning in a sweep in Gilmanton 25-10, 25-14, 25-9 and Augusta downing Melrose-Mindoro in their Homecoming match 25-22, 25-7, 25-20 to improve to 4-2 in the conference entering this week. Eleva-Strum played a rescheduled league match at Alma/Pepin Saturday and lost 3-1. Both Augusta and Eleva-Strum will go against each other this week looking to position themselves to finish above .500 in the league.