Prep Volleyball Round-up: Tri-County Teams head into tournament red hot

Osseo-Fairchild's McCune gets 1,000th kill as Thunder win 16th in a row

All four Tri-County Area prep volleyball teams are on winning streaks heading into play tonight Thursday, Oct. 14 and into the playoffs next week.

Osseo-Fairchild has the longest of all the winning streak of our teams at 16 in a row. The Thunder won two matches last week, swept through their invite meet last weekend on Saturday, Oct. 9 and won their Cloverbelt Crossover match against Neillsville on Tuesday of this week, Oct. 12 at home. O-F closed out their Western Cloverbelt Conference scheduled with a pair of 3-1 wins at home over No. 6 ranked Chippewa Falls McDonell and Bloomer on Oct. 5 and Oct. 7 respectively. At the Osseo-Fairchild Invitational the Thunder defeated Whitehall 25-7, 25-13; Neillsville 27-25, 25-18, Melrose-Mindoro 25-7, 25-6; Alma/Pepin 25-16, 25-18 and Durand 25-20 and 25-9. In stats for the Saturday meet, Brooke McCune led the team in kills with 58; Mariah Steinke had 32 kills and Madisyn Loonstra 13. In aces, Mariah Steinke had a team-best 13 and leads the Cloverbelt Conference in aces per game average at 1.1, Rachel Moe had nine aces, McCune seven, Zoey Lafky six, Loonstra four and Ayva Oliver three. Loonstra led the team in blocks with six, Rhiannon Prudlick had five, McCune thee and Steinke, Hailie Mayer and Katie Skoug all had two each. Moe led the team in assists with 70 with Oliver, a freshman, making 23 and in digs, McCune had 47, Steinke 38 and Lafky 20.

Against Neillsville again last Tuesday night OFHS won in three 25-17, 25-12, 25-17. McCune has honored for recording 1,000 kills in a single season for Osseo-Fairchild and she kept adding to her total with 14 to go with an ace. Steinke had 10 kills and four aces, Loonstra had a block and four aces (including three in a row in the first game) and Oliver had two aces while Prudlick had three kills.

O-F is 25-2 overall. Last year's state tournament team had a losing record until it caught fire, winning seven in a row all the way to state. Things seem to be clicking even faster for the Thunder this season.

"We're working very hard in practice," O-F head coach Sharon Steinke said. "Our serving has become much more consistent so you add what we can do on offense and defense with that and we're a very strong team as we head into the playoffs."

McCune echoed those sentiments.

"We have the potential to get to state again with everything going well and clicking into place," McCune said. "We're a tough team and we can reach our goals again if we continue to work hard."

Osseo-Fairchild's only losses this season came against the teams playing for the Cloverbelt Conference championship tonight, Oct. 14 at Fall Creek beginning at 7 p.m: No. 3 ranked in Division 3 Fall Creek and No. 3 ranked in Division 4 Marshfield Columbus. FC put a wrap on the Western Cloverbelt championship by beating Cadott 25-10, 25-15, 25-17 on Oct. 5 and Thorp 25-6, 25-22, 25-10 on Oct. 7 of last week to finish 7-0 in the WCC, their second league title in three years. The Crickets have a 39-4 overall record.

Against Cadott, Gianna Vollrath had 20 kills and 10 digs; Sam Olson finished with 19 assists, Anika Steinke had 19 assists; Hannah Herrem made 19 digs, Catrina Cline had 16 digs, Tori Marten finished with eight kills
and Emallie Sorensen had four aces. Versus Thorp, Vollrath had 19 kills and 16 digs; Olson finished with 15 assists; Steinke had 19 assists; Herrem had 16 digs which brought her to over 500 for the season. Cline had 10 digs, Marten had eight kills and Sorenson had four aces.

Eleva-Strum's winning streak, which they hope to extend tonight, Thursday, Oct. 14 in their regular season finale at Melrose-Mindoro, is not only four in a row and six of their last seven but those four wins have come in just a week's time. The Cardinals defeated Alma Center Lincoln 25-21, 25-11, 25-22 on Monday, Oct. 4 at home, won a grueling five-game match over Augusta on Tuesday, Oct., 5, also at home 20-25, 25-20, 23-25, 28-26 and 15-12; won at Independence 3-1 on Thursday, Oct. 7 and just swept Whitehall in their final regular season home match 25-19, 25-21 and 30-28. Against Lincoln, the Cards' Grace Clark had seven aces while teammate Jaden Bautch had nine kills. Clark led the team in kills vs. Augusta with 14 with Madison Schultz scoring 11 kills and Bautch nailing seven aces., She had nine aces against independence along with 18 digs. Schultz and Annika Skoug both had eight kills.

E-S is 10-13 overall and their good play of late earned them a No. 3 seed in next week's WIAA Division 4 regional tournament. The Cardinals have a first round home match against Lincoln on Tuesday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. Fall Creek has a first-round bye as a No. 1 seed while Osseo-Fairchild, the No. 3 seed in their D-3 half-sectional bracket, hosts No. 14 seed Melrose-Mindoro.

Augusta has a No. 13 seed and will be at No. 4 Westfield next Tuesday. But the Beavers too have been playing well as of late, winning two matches in a row and four of their last five, their only loss a 3-2 defeat at Eleva-Strum. In fact, the Beavers, 7-12 overall and 6-3 in the Dairyland Conference, have played in five such matches in DC action and have won three of them, the latest coming Tuesday, Oct. 12 at Alma/Pepin 13-25, 26-24, 10-25, 25-23, 16-14 in Alma. It seems if you don't beat the Beavers in three they'll come back to get you as Lincoln found out the hard way last week Thursday, Oct. 7 at Augusta. The Hornets won the first two games 25-17 and 25-19 and had the Beavers seemingly beat at 19-14 in Game 3 after a kill from Miah Breheim, who led Lincoln in kills in the match. But Augusta stormed right back as their top server Addison Engstrom scored five straight service points to tie the score at 20-20. Both teams went back n' forth for the next five points but it was Augusta getting the upper hand thanks to a kill from Samantha Winsce and an ace from sophomore Camryn Kirkham, just called up to the varsity line-up.

"We've talked about mindset, not just being tough but also letting go of mistakes and playing without fear," Augusta head coach Alicia Bethke said. "They surprise me sometimes with their endurance because it's late in the season and you have injuries and fatigue by this point but our team knows how to go the distance and win. It helps when you have good crowd and fan support to provide energy and we've been getting that this season which I can't thank enough from parents, fans and students."

Getting easy points off the service-receive also helps to save energy and Engstrom again came to Augusta aid when stepped to the service line with Game 4 tied at 10-10. She served up 11 straight points including two aces and kills from teammates Winsce, Kirsten Willms, the lone senior on the varsity roster, and Kennedy Korger. Lincoln came back to cut Augusta's lead to four at 24-20 but a kill from Emma Lee ended the game at 25-20 Augusta.

"We do a good job of staying positive, not getting down if things go against us and staying mentally tough," Engstrom said. "If you have a good serve-receive with aces and good passes which lead to points it helps lot to play well and knowing you can come back."

More good serving from Winsce and Willms put the Beavers up by six at 9-3 and 10-4 in Game 5 and Kirkham served out the Game 5 win at 15-7 getting both an ace and a block in the process.

Augusta's win over Alma/Pepin was their first in league action against a squad with a winning record and they hope to repeat themselves tonight, Thursday, Oct. 14 at home against 8-1 Cochrane-Fountain City at home beginning at 7 p.m.

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