Try as they might, the Brodhead Cardinals simply had no answer for River Ridge senior Skylar White.
The top-seeded Cardinals fell 15-13 in the fifth game Thursday night in the WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal to cap a memorable match and a terrific season.
River Ridge won 25-21, 20-25, 25-20, 21-25, 15-13 and will play No. 1-seeded Waterloo in Saturday’s sectional final at Dodgeland.
White finished the match with 43 kills to go along with a floor game that featured a number of aces, blocks, digs and assists.
“She really did it all for them,” Brodhead coach Erin Kammerer said. “Our plan was to hit it right at her and get her out of her rhythm. I don’t think we did that well enough tonight.
“She is one heck of an athlete. Everybody noticed her swing, but her ball control was amazing. She put it wherever she wanted, she could pass, she could be a set of hands. Whether she was in the front row or the back row, she was a constant threat.”
The Cardinals fell in the opening set before rallying for a victory in the second. After River Ridge regained the lead with a 25-20 victory in the third set, the Cardinals forced a deciding fifth and shook the rafters of the near-capacity crowd with a 25-21 victory in the fourth set.
Brodhead led most of the way in the fifth set and was up 12-10 before a service error, Brodhead’s ninth of the game, gave the ball back to the Timberwolves.
River Ridge won the next three points to put them on the verge of victory. The Cardinals got one back before the Timberwolves closed the match out when Brodhead was called for going under the net.
River Ridge coach Diane Langmeier said her squad stayed consistent in the final game.
“It was just a great volleyball match,” Langmeier said. “I told my girls that we needed to let them make the mistakes and then capitalize on them when they do. Our girls are trained to not miss many serves, and they were able to execute that tonight.”
While White garnered the well-deserved headlines, a pair of powerful weapons were the story for the Cardinals. Senior Katie Goecks finished with 20 kills, and freshman Abbie Dix finished with 22.
Goecks said the level of play was as high as she’d seen it this season.
“This is the kind of opponent you would expect in a sectional semifinal,” Goecks said. “Their back row seemed to get everything, whether it was tips or hits or whatever. They were able to adjust to it. If our best hitters were trying to smack it to the ground, they were right there to dig it out. Their defense was just great.”
While her career didn’t end up at the state tournament, Goecks said she has plenty of great memories to look back upon.
“This team was so much fun,” Goecks said. “In the four years I’ve played for coach Kammerer, this is by far the closest team we’ve had. We were able to do a lot of fun things outside of practice and games that really helped us come together as a team. It was a great team environment.”
Kammerer said that despite the team’s youth, the players made no excuse all season regarding their lack of experience.
“We’ve always lived by the motto that you play in the moment,” Kammerer said. “We don’t wait for the next year or something better coming up. You take what you have and you get after it. I really think this team embraced that concept.
“Nobody thought coming into the year we were going to be able to do anything being so young, but we were able to buy into that motto, and that shows what great kids I had.”
RIVER RIDGE 3, BRODHEAD 2
River Ridge 25 20 25 21 15
Brodhead 20 25 20 25 13
Brodhead leaders: Kills: Dix 22, Goecks 20; Digs: Moe, 19; Assists: Kammerer 55; Aces: Dix 3; Blocks: Dix, 4.