For the first time this season, the lights were just a little too bright for the youthful Brodhead High volleyball team.
The Cardinals never could get into a groove against Washburn, which finished its season with a perfect 18-0 record after defeating Brodhead in four sets for the WIAA Division 2 title match Saturday afternoon.
“I think the big stage got us today,” Brodhead coach Erin Kammerer said. “And that was a little unexpected because that hasn’t happened up to this point. We weren’t as gritty as we normally are. We’ve been living on that, and we didn’t have that today.”
Brodhead (11-4) started out slowly in the match, played at Kaukauna High School, as Washburn jumped out to a 10-3 lead.
But as they had much of the season when necessary, the Cardinals battled back. They eventually tied the game at 22 before Washburn scored the final three points of the set to win 25-22.
Brodhead continued to struggle in a second set that was commanded by Washburn from the start, with the Castle Guards emerging with a 25-17 win.
Washburn then scored the first three points of the third set before the Cardinals went on their only extended run of the match.
Brodhead scored nine straight points, and though Washburn fought back to eventually tie the set at 15, the Cardinals countered strong and forced a fourth set with a 25-20 win.
“I really thought that third game was going to give us the spark we needed,” Kammerer said. “There wasn’t ever really a flow to us yet. It was a battle back-and-forth, but we pulled through, and I thought that might get us enough momentum to at least push it to five sets.”
The fourth set was another back and forth affair, with the game tied at 16 before Washburn took over, finally collecting a 25-21 win to clinch the match.
The senior-laden Castle Guards took home the title, but the Cardinals took home a silver ball, a lot of pride and unbridled enthusiasm for a team that loses just three seniors.
“They are a good team, of course,” Kammerer said. “They kept us off-balanced. I felt like my kids couldn’t dig anything that was in front of them. They came at us with a big swing and hurt us with that.”
Brodhead sophomore Alexis Kammerer said the wild ride the team has been on might have finally caught up to them.
“It was tough because they came out ready to play right away,” Alexis Kammerer said. “We just didn’t play as a team like we normally do. It’s been a long week, both physically and mentally, and I think we came out a little tired.”
WASHBURN 3, BRODHEAD 1
Washburn 25 25 20 25
Brodhead 22 17 25 21
WASHBURN (leaders) — Kills (55): C. Wheeler 18, L. Wheeler 15, Dougherty 15. Assists (52): Johnson 48. Blocks (3): M. Dougherty 2. Aces (9): Barningham 3, L. Wheeler 3. Digs (54): Johnson 12, Wright 12, C. Wheeler 12. Attack pct.: .174.
BRODHEAD — Kills (37): Dix 18. Assists (36): Kammerer 29. Blocks (9): Dix 4, Matthys 1.5, Kammerer 1.5. Aces (5): Moe 2. Digs (47): Kail 12, Oliver 12, Dix 10. Attack pct.: .167.