In the Cards: Brodhead volleyball heads to state
BRODHEAD--Before every match, Brodhead senior Carly Mohns and some of her teammates sing and dance to Katy Perry's “Roar.”
“Not all of us want to hear it, but we let Carly play it,” Brodhead senior outside hitter Rachel Heller said. “I love the song, 'Dream On,' by Aerosmith.”
Determining the pre-match music may be the only thing the Cardinals have to debate this season.
Brodhead (29-5) will roll into the WIAA Division 3 state tournament at 1 p.m. on Friday with a semifinal against Regis in Green Bay. And the Cardinals are planning on making the crowd roar at the Resch Center.
It's Brodhead's first state-tournament appearance since 2008.
“Obviously, we want to go up there and represent Brodhead really well,” Mohns said. “We want to bring home the gold ball and show them what we can do.”
Last year, due to a rash of torn anterior cruciate ligament injuries, the Cardinals had just two players returning as starters. Mohns and Amanda Pickel missed most of the season due to ACL injuries.
The playing time and experience that some of the younger players received served as a springboard to this year's success.
“Last year, when we had all of the injuries, they still believed in themselves,” Brodhead coach Erin Kammerer said. “It didn't pay off last year. This year is their payoff for a season that was detrimental to us.”
For many players, the Cardinals' run to state wasn't improbable, but it did take a different path. Brodhead didn't have to play No. 1-seed Waterloo in the sectional semifinals or top-seeded Cuba City in a sectional title match.
However, the No. 2-seed Cardinals essentially played a road game in the sectional semis at Markesan before topping Wisconsin Heights in the sectional final.
The next challenge for the Cardinals is Regis (35-5). Regis is back at state for the first time since 2007, and this is the school's fourth appearance overall, including three straight from 2002-04.
“They have a big hitter and great blocker,” Kammerer said of Regis. “They do a great job of blocking. We will have to be really focused and cover our hitters. Everyone on their team serves better than 90 percent.”
The Cardinals rely on two dominant hitters of their own in Mohns and Heller.
Mohns averages 10.3 kills per match and Heller 8.1. Mohns leads the team in kills (352) and blocks (84), and Heller leads the team in digs (271).
“Carly and Rachel are both good athletes,” Kammerer said. “They are very coachable. They have that desire to win (that) I haven't had the chance to coach before. They want to show they are leaders, and not just by talking.”
Heller looks forward to making a mark and ending the season at state.
“I wake up every single day overwhelmed by it,” Heller said of the Cardinals' opportunity to play in the state tournament. “It probably won't sink in until I'm at the Resch Center. It's definitely been a roller coaster.”
The last time the Cardinals played in the state tournament, Kammerer was an assistant coach and junior setter Payton Wright was a fan cheering on her role models in the stands at the Resch Center.
Now, Kammerer is the head coach and Wright will be on the court in the middle of each rally.
“I remember looking up to all of those girls and saying, 'I want to do that someday,' and now we get to,” Wright said.
Brodhead senior Jordan Halvorsen said she never thought the Cardinals would be at state.
“We have always had the skill,” she said. “We finally put the heart into it. I think the big thing is we came together as a team.”
Brodhead has a pep assembly scheduled for today, and then the team will head to Green Bay.
“It will be a big arena,” Wright said. “We have to stay calm and not get overwhelmed by all of the people. It's good to know we have people with experience who can keep their cool in tough situations.”
East Troy takes perfect mark to state
East Troy has been waiting for this trip to Green Bay all year.
The No. 1-ranked team in the state in Division 2—and a team ranked nationally in multiple polls—the Trojans enter Friday's semifinal against Oconto Falls with a perfect 42-0 record.
“Ultimately, all season long, it's been (about) the WIAA tournament,” East Troy coach Jeremy Weis said late in the season. “It's the gold ball we want to get. We've won four tournaments this year, but really the only one that really matters is the fifth one.”
The trip almost didn't happen, however.
East Troy trailed Kettle Moraine Lutheran two sets to one in a sectional final at Elkhorn on Saturday, but won the last two sets, 25-18 and 15-9, to advance.
It's the Trojans' second trip to state in program history and first since 1987.
Oconto Falls makes its fourth state appearance. It lost in the Division 2 semifinals in 1998, 2007 and 2011.