Janesville Parker’s volleyball team went trick-or-treating Thursday night and came home with one of the sweetest feats in program history.
For the first time in 25 years, Parker will play for a sectional volleyball title.
The second-seeded Vikings started slow against sixth-seeded Wilmot in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal but rolled to victories in the final three sets to win 20-25, 25-18, 25-20 and 25-16.
Parker, which improved to 33-10 this season, last reached a sectional final 1995. It plays two-time defending state champion and top-ranked Burlington on Saturday night at Westosha Central for the sectional title.
Wilmot had the best player on the court Thursday in 6-foot-3 outside hitter and Division 1 recruit Karina Leber, but Parker had the better team and proved it in the final three sets. Parker was the aggressor and got strong play throughout the lineup.
Senior Tina Shelton was her usual steady self with six kills and three blocks, while sophomore Kylee Skrzypchak had a team-high seven kills.
The well-placed serves of seniors Lexi Walters and Rachel Van Beek frustrated the Panthers the entire match, while seniors Shay Riley and Carlie Curtis did yeoman’s work both offensively and defensively.
Walters said the Vikings made the proper adjustments after playing poorly in the first set.
“More than anything, I think we just played the way we were capable of after the first game,” Walters said. “Our defense really stepped up and came through.
“After the first game, we were able to keep the ball away, for the most part, from No. 42 (Leber). She hurt us early, but then we all just tried to not hit it anywhere near her.”
Wilmot pulled away to win the first set, but it was all Parker after that. The Vikings evened up the match thanks to an 8-2 run in the second set that pushed the lead from 12-11 to 20-13. The set ended with back-to-back unforced errors by Wilmot.
The third set was back-and-forth until Curtis served six straight points to help Parker go from down 19-18 to a 24-19 lead. The set ended on sophomore Jayda Schober’s rocket from the left side.
Parker pulled away early in the fourth set and cruised to the win. Shelton had two kills to help the Vikings open up a 17-11 lead, and the Panthers got no closer than five after that. A service error by Wilmot ended the match.
Parker coach and recently named Big Eight coach of the year Andy Kimball knows his team will have its hands full Saturday with two-time defending state champion Burlington but also knows his senior-driven team won’t play scared.
“The way I look at it, and what I told the girls afterward, is that we’re kind of playing with house money right now,” Kimball said. “We’ll be the heavy underdog, but we’ve got nothing to lose.
“They’re very big and very talented, and it will come down to matchups, but one thing we’ve seen from these girls all season is that they play with a lot of heart.”
Halloween night turned out to be anything but scary for Janesville Parker’s volleyball team.
PARKER 3, WILMOT 1
Wilmot 25 18 20 16
Janesville Parker 20 25 25 25
Parker leaders: Aces—Lexi Walters, Rachel Van Beek 3. Kills—Kylee Skrzypchak 7, Tina Shelton 6. Digs—Carlie Curtis 15. Blocks—Shelton 3. Assists—Shay Riley 22