For Blake Budrow, the WIAA’s alternate fall volleyball season did not fly by as fast as one might think.
At least he didn’t feel that way until this week.
Just over five weeks since the first official day of competition, teams are now set for the postseason, with regionals taking place Saturday.
“All of a sudden, the start of this week it hit me,” Budrow said. “We kind of went, ‘Well, this is our last regular-season match and the tournament starts this weekend.’”
Given all the uncertainty, especially at the time area teams’ normal fall seasons were completely postponed, everyone seems happy to simply have any sort of postseason.
But the WIAA tournament will certainly feel different.
For starters, all regional matches will take place this Saturday. Teams were broken down into groups of three or four, by geographical vicinity. The top seeds host regional semifinals throughout the day Saturday, and the two teams that win those matches will meet in the regional finals Saturday night.
“It’s actually kind of neat, and more tournament-like. But it’s certainly a condensed version,” Budrow said. “There’s not much time to prepare. So it’s really going to be more keeping it clean on your end and focusing on things you can do.”
Teams that win regional titles Saturday will then be placed in a four-team sectional bracket that will be seeded.
Sectionals are Tuesday, with the state tournament semifinals Thursday in Beaver Dam or Kettle Moraine and the state championships two days later, April 17, at Kaukauna.
There are just two divisions, so teams from the Rock Valley Conference like Whitewater and Turner find themselves in the same regional as teams from the Big Eight or Badger conferences.
“They (our players) are excited about the caliber of teams we get to play,” Whitewater High coach Kathy Bullis said. “We typically don’t play some of those bigger Division 1 schools, and now we have the potential to.
“But we’re not going to worry about that. We’ve got to take care of Jefferson and go from there.”
Breaking down the matchups
Whitewater has been one of the true area success stories of the alternate fall.
The Whippets are unbeaten and celebrated their run through the Rock Valley Conference slate with a small celebration when they returned to town after winning in Clinton on Tuesday.
Whitewater is the No. 1 seed and hosts fourth-seeded Jefferson on Saturday. Second-seeded Fort Atkinson and third-seeded Big Foot meet in the other regional semi.
Should Whitewater advance, potential sectional foes include Racine Case, Oshkosh West and Manitowoc Lincoln.
“One of our mantras this year is, ‘Don’t take one for granted,’” Bullis said. “You can’t take one practice for granted, can’t take one repetition for granted, and even your classes.
“These girls have been working together for so many years, since their seventh- and eighth-grade years, the core group of seniors—Cora Linos, Kiyla Kopecky, Amanda Tovar and Emme Bullis. ... The level of our play is so high. And it’s not just what they’ve done in our gym, but we have girls playing club, and they just get tons of repetitions.
“And finally, knock on wood, we’re healthy. We don’t have any major injuries. The last three years, every year, we’ve had one.”
On the other side of the D1 bracket, Edgerton and Janesville Craig are top seeds and hosting regionals.
Craig will host fourth-seeded Beloit Turner at 1 p.m. Saturday, with second-seeded Parker and third-seeded Beloit Memorial at 4 and the winners playing at 7 p.m.
“We’ve kind of been up and down all year, but when we play well I think we can hang with anybody,” Budrow said. “There’s been nights when we’re just not clicking or not communicating or have unforced errors.
“In a regional, anything can happen. We played Beloit the other night and they are really athletic. And Parker, we’ve had a couple close matches with them.”
Parker coach Andy Kimball echoed Budrow’s thoughts that the regional should be competitive and that his team—which lost twice to Craig in the regular season but beat Beloit in four sets—has a chance to make some noise if it can play its best.
“It’s just about finding a little bit more consistency,” Kimball said. “We feel like we’ve played at a high level this season and have seen really good competition and are better than our record indicates. Hopefully we can cause some problems for teams.”
In Edgerton, third-seeded Milton and second-seeded Evansville meet in a regional semi at 3 p.m., with the winner taking on Edgerton at 6:30 p.m.
In a sign of just how topsy-turvy things have gone during the short season, Milton lost to both Edgerton and Evansville but recently swept Craig, which was swept by Edgerton.
“We lost to both Evansville and Edgerton, so obviously I couldn’t contend for a higher seed,” Milton coach Kaitlin Lundeen said of the recent seeding meeting. “But I feel like if we come in the way we did Friday (at Craig), it’ll be a much different game (this time against Evansville).”
In Division 2, Brodhead is a No. 1 seed and will host the winner of Clinton and Parkview in a regional final at 7 p.m. Saturday.
WIAA volleyball tournament
Area matchups Saturday
(3) Stoughton vs. (2) Monona Grove, at McFarland, 4 p.m.
(3) Monroe vs. (2) Oregon, at Mount Horeb, 1 p.m.
(3) Milton vs. (2) Evansville, at Edgerton, 3 p.m.
(4) Turner at (1) Janesville Craig, 1 p.m.
(3) Beloit Memorial vs. (2) Janesville Parker, at Craig, 4 p.m.
(4) Jefferson at (1) Whitewater, 1 p.m.
(3) Big Foot vs. (2) Fort Atkinson, at Whitewater, 4 p.m.
Stoughton-MG winner at (1) McFarland, 7 p.m.
Monroe-Oregon winner at (1) Mount Horeb, 4 p.m.
Milton-Evansville winner at (1) Edgerton, 6:30 p.m.
Craig-Turner winner vs. Parker-Beloit winner, at Craig, 7 p.m.
Whitewater-Jefferson winner vs. Fort-Big Foot winner, at Whitewater, 7:30 p.m.
(3) Clinton vs. (2) Parkview, at Brodhead, 4 p.m.
Clinton-Parkview winner at (1) Brodhead, 7 p.m.