Abbey Johnson and the Brodhead volleyball team came into the 2018 season with a mission to protect their home court.
The Cardinals are receiving votes in the latest Division 3 state coaches poll and opened Rock Valley Conference play in their home gym Tuesday night against rival Big Foot.
Brodhead certainly looked the part of a team passionate about playing at home. It picked up a sweep, winning 25-22, 25-13, 25-19.
“First conference match, and we just wanted to come out on our court and play hard,” said Johnson, a versatile senior headed to Viterbo. “We had a lot of goals, to play as a team and play clean, and I think we just really executed.”
Brodhead benefited from strong starts in each of the first two sets.
In the first, the Cardinals jumped out to a 9-3 lead, though Big Foot rallied and led the match seven different times, including 20-19 on senior Kampbell Hehr’s kill through Brodhead’s block attempt.
But Brodhead scored six of the final eight points from there.
Johnson set up sophomore Sabrina Siegel for a kill to make it 23-22 and then fed junior Katie Goecks for the final point.
“We talk about protecting our floor, and I felt like they finally did that tonight,” Brodhead coach Erin Kammerer said.
“Big Foot has always got a great program, so to come out and get our first conference win against them is a big confidence boost for us.”
Brodhead dominated the second set. Freshman Madisyn Kail served eight straight points to give the Cardinals a 13-2 lead, forcing both Big Foot timeouts in the process.
“We could not overcome ourselves,” Big Foot coach Caitlin Dowden said. “We went back and looked at set one, and I think we gave up 15 points between hitting errors and serving errors. You can’t make that up against a solid team.
“I think that was the story all night.”
Dowden said the Chiefs have suffered from slow starts in early-season tournaments but have typically rallied to finish strong in those events. In a best-of-five match, however, there’s no such time to regroup.
“We’ve been very hot and cold,” Dowden said. “We’ve got to figure out, from 0-0, how we can turn it on.”
Big Foot started better in the third, leading 6-4 and as late as 12-11. It was 15-15 when Brodhead regained the lead for good on a service error. Johnson’s block later made it 21-17 and forced a final Big Foot timeout before Brodhead held on for good.
“We’ve had a lot of players step up,” Kammerer said. “We really have a core four, and everybody is looking to them, and our older ones are showing leadership. Everyone is following suit.”
Johnson led the way with 13 assists, 13 digs, three blocks and two aces, while Goecks and Alexis Oliver each had seven kills for Brodhead.
In other Rock Valley openers, state-ranked East Troy beat host McFarland in four sets, Whitewater edged Jefferson in five, Edgerton swept Turner and Evansville topped Clinton in four.
Brodhead travels to Clinton on Thursday, while Big Foot travels to state-ranked East Troy.
BRODHEAD 3, BIG FOOT 0
Big Foot 22 13 19
Brodhead 25 25 25
Leaders: Aces—Abbey Johnson and Sabrina Siegel (Bro), 2 each. Kills—Alexis Oliver and Katie Goecks (Bro), 7 each. Assists—Johnson 13. Digs—Johnson 13. Blocks—Johnson 3.