Edgerton volleyball sings the blues in sectional
A robust chorus of "Sweet Caroline" repeatedly poured down from the Sauk Prairie student section during the two most crucial stretches of the Eagles' 19-25, 25-22, 16-25, 25-18, 15-10 victory over the Crimson Tide in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal match here Thursday night at River Valley High School.
In front of the full-throat section, sophomore Caroline Gust served up a storm during a 9-0 run that gave the Eagles a 19-14 lead in Game 4, as well as in the last two points of the match.
After every point Gust served, the section sang the refrain that bled seconds into each ensuing point.
"If I don't have to hear that for a while, I'll be happy," Knott said.
For Gust, who had a match-high four aces, it's become her favorite sports anthem.
"I am a Neil Diamond fan, actually," Gust said. "It just pumps me up so much to hear them cheering me on. It gives me the momentum I need to get through the game."
With its victory in this five-game thriller, Sauk Prairie (25-7) earned the right to face Madison Edgewood (20-8) on Saturday night at McFarland for the sectional title and berth in next week's state tournament.
Meanwhile, Edgerton's magnificent season ended with a 40-4 record.
Knott called a timeout with his team down 4-0 in the final game. When senior Bethany Wedvick solo blocked Alison Halweg after the break, it ended a 19-4 run by the Eagles, spanning the two games.
Two more Wedvick kills followed—she finished with 27, two shy of twin sister Katie's match-high 29—before two digs by Edgerton senior Molly Langer allowed Wedvick to register a fourth straight kill on a spike through a block.
Sauk Prairie won five of the next six points to take a 9-5 lead and force Knott to take his last timeout. The Eagles scored an invaluable point immediately after the timeout as Lacey Puls rifled home an errant service receive.
"She's an animal at the net, and I told her to keep going at them every time," Sauk Prairie coach Eleanor Engleby said of Puls, who stopped several Edgerton runs with spike kills.
Puls nearly repeated the feat, if not for an eye-popping Langer dig. Katie Wedvick then picked on an errant pass, rifling it middle-to-left to pull Edgerton within 10-6.
The Tide ran its money play to get within two for the last time at 12-10. Junior Meggie Schmidt, who dealt out 47 assists, set up Katie Wedvick, who sprinted a half-circle from her middle position to the right wire. She then crushed the pinpoint set into the middle of the Eagles' side, where Brittany Hahn's dig attempt shot into the rafters.
But the fiery Hahn, who had a match-high 47 digs, spiked a kill on the ensuing point. Two points later, as the last chants of "so good, so good, so good, so good" died out, Caroline's older sister, senior Alex Gust, spanked the match-ending spike kill down the heart of the Tide defense, just a couple feet inside the back boundary.
That's the last place Engleby would've expected the winning point to come, given the steady play be the 6-1 Wedvick sisters.
"Their two strong middles made it feel like no one ever rotated out of that spot," Engleby said.
Langer led Edgerton with 26 digs, while sophomore Tessa Snell had a match-high six block kills, and Sauk Prairie's Lauren Halweg led all players with 60 assists. The bulk of them went to her sister, sophomore Alison, who led the Eagles with 27 kills.
The Tide seemed to be rolling when it held a 2-1 lead after three games.
"You think you have momentum, but it can go away fast," Langer said.
With a lump in his throat, Knott gave the match and the Eagles rave reviews.
"I won't take anything away from Sauk Prairie. It was a phenomenal volleyball match," Knott said. "This is the type of match you wish there didn't have to be a loser.
"Both teams deserved it. Now (the Eagles) have got as good a chance as anyone to go on and do this thing."
Langer, who'd been sick in the days leading up to her last match for the Tide, took a moment to reflect on her team's historic season.
"It's been awesome," Langer said. "We all like each other. People might not like practice, but everyone on our team—they came to every practice. We've had a lot of fun. And when we have fun, we win."
Despite the outcome, the Tiders were having the time of their lives in Thursday's marathon, as evidenced by endless digs, one of which nearly led Schmidt face-first into the chair at the end of her team's bench.
"Our defense played great," Langer said. "We wanna get every ball—it bugs us when they get kills."
"That's the way they play the game, and I'd be disappointed if I didn't see it come out of them," Knott said. "That's what I'll miss about this group—all these unique individuals.
"It's the way they play the game. And there's nothing to be ashamed of after a 40-4 season."
SAUK PRAIRIE 3, EDGERTON 2
Edgerton 25 22 25 18 10
Sauk Prairie 19 25 16 25 15
Leaders: Aces—Meggie Schmidt (E) 1, Molly Langer (E) 1, Tori Wileman (E) 1, Caroline Gust (SP) 4. Kills—Bethany Wedvick (E) 29, Alison Halweg (SP) 27. Digs—Langer (E) 26, Brittany Hahn (SP) 47. Blocks—Tessa Snell (E) 6, Alex Gust (SP) 1.5, Lacey Puls (SP) 1.5. Assists—Schmidt (E) 47, Lauren Halweg (WP) 60.
-- Edgewood 3, Lakeside 1—Madison Edgewood (20-8) moved within one step of its first trip to the state tournament since 2003 by turning back Lakeside Lutheran in a Division 2 sectional semifinal match on the Crusaders' court.
The Crusaders play Sauk Prairie on Saturday night at McFarland for the sectional title and state berth.
Edgewood broke away from a 1-1 tie after two games to defeat Lakeside with 25-20 and 25-8 victories. Olivia Dittman had 44 assists and Ashley Ring collectred 21 kills to lead the Crusaders.
EDGEWOOD 3, LAKESIDE 1
Lakeside Lutheran 25 15 20 8
Madison Edgewood 16 25 25 25
Leaders: Aces—Luisier (LL) 2, Dittman (ME) 3. Kills—Luisier (LL) 11, Ring (ME) 21. Digs—Anthon (LL) 3, Kuypers (ME) 14. Assists—Genz (LL) 27, Dittman (ME) 44.