Sometimes the score doesn’t tell the whole story.

Baraboo girls volleyball coach Morgan Liebetrau felt that was the case on Thursday night. Her Thunderbirds were swept at the hands of Badger North Conference power Waunakee, but Baraboo put up a fight in the 25-16, 25-21, 25-22 home loss.

“Going into it, we knew it was going to be a tough match,” Liebetrau said. “My goal, honestly, was to compete well with them. Going down in three (sets) doesn’t necessarily look like that, when you see we lost 0-3 it doesn’t necessarily look like we competed, but when you look back at the scores, I really do feel like we met our goal by competing. They’re the number one team in the conference.”

It was the final regular-season conference match of the year for the T-Birds (16-13, 4-3 Badger North), who will enter Saturday’s Badger North Conference tournament as the third, fourth or fifth seed. Waunakee (6-1) will likely go in seeded second behind Mount Horeb, due to Mount Horeb’s win over Waunakee on Tuesday.

Thursday’s match was a game of runs early on, as Waunakee opened up a 6-1 lead in set one before Baraboo rallied. Lia Kieck got on a roll at the service line and an Abby Haseley kill gave the T-Birds a 7-6 lead. Baraboo opened up an 8-6 lead before Waunakee tied it at 8-8.

Haseley recorded a kill to give the T-Birds an 11-10 advantage, but that was Baraboo’s last lead of the set. The T-Birds stayed within striking distance for a while, but Waunakee closed the set with five straight points to take a 25-16 win.

The T-Birds turned the tide right away in set two, jumping out to a 4-0 advantage after an ace by Claire McNevin. But the Warriors answered with four consecutive points of their own and neither team could gain control until Baraboo called a timeout trailing 15-11.

The T-Birds came out of the timeout strong, pulling within 15-14 and climbing within one point multiple times late in set two. They could never get over the hump, however, as Waunakee closed it out to record a 25-21 win.

Waunakee jumped ahead in set three, grabbing a 4-0 lead and stretching that to 12-6 midway through the set. The Warriors held a comfortable lead until Baraboo made a late run. The T-Birds scored four consecutive points to pull within 22-20 and force Waunakee to call a timeout. Baraboo scored the next point coming out of the timeout, but the Warriors won a marathon of a point to open up a 23-21 lead. Waunakee’s Kaleigh Roepke came up big with two final kills to give the Warriors a 25-22 set-three win.

“I told them in the locker room before the game, ‘No matter what the score is, no matter what set we’re in, this game isn’t over until we’re packing up our things,’” Liebetrau said. “I really think the girls played like that. We fought. We were down quite a bit in that third set and we battled back. I think that definitely shows some heart and some aggressiveness on our side.”

Prior to the game, the T-Birds honored McNevin, the lone senior on a young Baraboo team that surprised some by competing in the top half of the Badger North standings. McNevin finished with a team-high 17 assists in her final home match.

“An all-around phenomenal kid,” Liebetrau said of McNevin. “She’s just a great leader, she works hard and she’s very coachable. She’s a great asset to the team and she’s going to be missed.”

Kieck and Haseley each had six kills to lead the T-Birds, while Kieck and Megan Horstman each tallied two blocks. Kieck also had a team-high two aces, while Sierra Weiland led the way with nine digs.

Kiana Schmitt paced Waunakee with 15 kills and four blocks, while Summer Schwenn had 23 assists, Roepke had 11 digs and Sarah Malone had four aces.

“It’s a tough matchup for the front row,” Liebetrau said of Waunakee. “We had good blocks up there tonight, but they’re just taller than us, they hit right over us. When you’re outmatched like that, it’s a tough match to win.”

The T-Birds will look to gain ground in the conference standings when they head to Portage for the conference tournament on Saturday. Liebetrau believes that Thursday’s difficult match should have Baraboo ready to go.

“I think that was good competition for us,” Liebetrau said. “I’d definitely rather play a team like that rather than a not-so-great team going into the conference tournament on Saturday. That’s a big day for us. We have some revenge to get on some teams like DeForest and Reedsburg, and I’m sure some teams are after us.”

WAUNAKEE 3, BARABOO 0

Waunakee 25 25 25

Baraboo 16 21 22

Waunakee (Leaders): Kills — Schmitt 15. Digs — Roepke 11. Blocks — Schmitt 4. Aces — Malone 4. Assists — Schwenn 23.

Baraboo: Kills — Kieck, Haseley 6. Digs — Weiland 9. Blocks — Kieck, Horstman 2. Aces — Kieck 2. Assists — McNevin 17.

Follow Brock Fritz on Twitter @BrockFritz

Capital Newspapers Regional Sports Reporter