In a historically strange season, the Brodhead girls volleyball team is looking to make some history.
The Cardinals are seeking their first trip to the WIAA Division 2 state volleyball tournament since 2013.
If they are to accomplish that feat, they must conquer a couple of things: a unique format and (possibly) the state’s top-ranked team.
The Cardinals, fresh off a regional title romp over Parkview on Saturday night, will face Columbus at 4 p.m. today in Waupun in a Division 2 sectional semifinal.
Should they defeat Columbus, they will take on either top-ranked Laconia or fourth-seeded Poynette in a sectional final tonight.
All four are uncommon opponents to coach Erin Kammerer and her team.
“I like the fact that we get to face all new teams,” Kammerer said. “You do lose that little edge of knowing what the other team likes to do, but we’ve been battling the Rock Valley Conference all season, and it’s nice to get a break from that. I know that in one of the other sectionals, Edgerton could end up facing McFarland to go to state.”
The Cardinals have been solid all season but have played particularly well of late, the highlight being a sweep over Edgerton in the regular-season finale.
“That Edgerton match really gave us a high heading into the playoffs,” Kammerer said. “Everyone on the team just played so well. It looked like a group that had been playing together for several years. And it wasn’t just about the last touch. It was about the first touch, the serve, everything. It was a great way to enter the playoffs.”
Kammerer said while the format tonight is unusual, it is certainly not unprecedented.
“We are treating it like it’s a tournament,” Kammerer said. “We typically play in a couple of those throughout the year, including the conference tournament, but there weren’t any of those this year. We just need to battle through that first one to try and reach the finals. I know that we are physically prepared to come in and compete with these teams; it’s just a matter of making sure we’re mentally prepared, too.”
The Cardinals are doing their best to prepare for what lies ahead.
“The kids have been watching some game film that’s out there on Columbus,” Kammerer said. “And we’ve set up drills in practice that are specific to the strengths of what they do. But really, we are focusing on what we do and what we can control. We know that there are really good teams there, and we’re going to have to play our best to move on.”
The Cardinals have been led by their usual suspects of late: Middle hitter Abbie Dix has been a dangerous weapon while Alexis Kammerer was among the conference leaders in assists. Madisyn Kail, Kiarra Moe and Onnikah Oliver have also played vital roles in the team’s success.
At the start of the season, it appeared there would be no state tournament for the alternate fall competitors. But the WIAA annoucned a tournament midseason, and the Cardinals are doing their best to advance to the state semifinals, which would be held at Beaver Dam or Kettle Moraine on Thursday, with the finals taking place Saturday in Kaukauna.
“The whole season, we talked about being competitive with the rest of the conference,” Kammerer said. “And it was a great year for volleyball in the Rock. Whitewater, Edgerton and McFarland all won regionals and are still playing. So we got a great regular season in that we thought was going to be it. Now having this playoff at the end is nice. We feel well prepared after the competition we faced all year.”
Others seeking history
Those other area teams are looking to end droughts that are even longer than that of Brodhead.
Janesville Craig, which is seeded second and plays Edgerton in a sectional semifinal at 4 p.m. at Kettle Moraine, has been to state just one time in program history—in 1981.
A sectional title by Edgerton would send the third-seeded Crimson Tide to state for the first time in program history.
Craig is looking to beat Edgerton for the second time this season. The Cougars won, 25-23, 25-22, 25-17, in the first meeting, though the Tide led at times in each of the first two sets.
The winner tonight takes on either top-seeded McFarland or Mount Horeb in the sectional final at 7 p.m.
And Whitewater, seeded third and taking on Manitowoc Lincoln in a D1 sectional semi at Oshkosh North, has been to state twice—in 1981 and 1995.