JANESVILLE

Janesville Craig’s senior volleyball players believe they still have some noise to make before their careers are complete.

The group of five has spent much of this season either working to help a young team jell together or recovering from injury. But the Cougars believe they’ve shown the steady improvement they were hoping for as the postseason nears.

On Thursday, the seniors celebrated their final Big Eight Conference home match by sweeping Madison East 25-15, 25-13, 25-16. Craig improved to 3-4 in conference play.

“To win our Senior Night is a really good feeling,” said senior Rachel Bonham, who had five aces and eight kills in the victory. “I think our class is normally the first ones on the court and the last ones to leave. Our success comes from the drive we have and working hard.

“It’s really impressive how much these (younger) girls have grown so much. They never got down on themselves. If we lost, it was, how can we get better and what can we learn?”

Craig coach Blake Budrow said that desire to improve begins with his seniors and has rubbed off on the younger players.

“I think of just their improvement throughout their career,” Budrow said of his seniors. “I feel like we have made a lot of strides as a team. Our timing is better. We’ve tweaked the lineup here and there, and they’ve responded to the changes. I really like where we’re headed.”

The Cougars were never particularly stressed against the Purgolders.

The first set was tied, 13-13, but Craig scored the next seven points, including three on aces by junior Sophia Vitaioli—who finished with five.

Craig led 13-10 in the second set and closed on a 12-3 run.

Sophomore Britten Bertagnoli had five of her match-high 11 kills in the final set, when the Cougars raced out to a 9-3 lead and never looked back. The team had 18 aces on the night.

“Serving is the first thing that you get to do, so if you make it difficult on the other team, it makes the rest of the play easier,” Bonham said.

Senior libero Lauren Glissendorf continued her impressive season leading Craig’s defense, though digs statistics were not immediately available. Taylor Tompkins was also steady in the back row. Maddie Grund, who has been out injured all season, was given the ball to start the match and served up an ace. And the fifth senior, Taylor Morgan, continues to battle her way back from injury.

The Cougars host Janesville Parker, Delavan-Darien, Evansville, Racine Horlick and Southeast Wisconsin Christian Homeschool Athletics in a tournament at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“We are coming strong and are just going to keep improving,” Bonham said. “Like the sticker on our shoe says, ‘We’re going to make it better than yesterday.’”

CRAIG 3, EAST 0

Madison East 15 13 16

Janesville Craig 25 25 25

Craig statistics (aces-kills-assists): McKaylie Justman 1-5-0, Taylor Tompkins 0-0-0, Julia Masterson 0-0-6, Kelly Heinzen 0-2-, Abby Trapp 2-0-23, Maddie Grund 1-0-0, Sophia Vitaoli 5-0-0, Rachel Bonham 5-8-0, Taia Hodgkinson 0-5-0, Britten Bertagnoli 0-11-0, Jessa Alderman 0-1-0.

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