The Baraboo High School volleyball team extended its season as long as possible Thursday.
The ninth-seeded Thunderbirds came up a few points short, turning a slow start into a thriller before suffering a 25-16, 25-14, 21-25, 17-25, 15-5 loss to No. 8 Monona Grove in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal at Monona Grove High School.
“I think just having the home-court advantage really came through for us,” Monona Grove coach Todd Andersen-Goldsworthy said of how his team was able to come back after giving up a two-set lead. “Our girls, the seniors especially, were really determined to get a win on their home court.
“We’ve had quite a few five-set matches this season and I believe we’ve lost them all. So this is the first five-set match we’ve actually been able to close out, and it’s a good one to do it because we can stay alive in the postseason.”
Everything went Monona Grove way during the first two sets. The Silver Eagles (19-18) turned it on late in the first set. Following a kill by Baraboo’s Isabelle Meyer, Monona Grove scored the final eight points, including a Gabby Rivera ace, to turn a 17-16 lead into a 25-16 set-one win.
The Silver Eagles put the second set away with a 6-1 run that was capped by a Jada Braun block and stretched a 15-10 lead into a 21-11 lead. Baraboo’s Taylor Pfaff ended the run with a kill, Katie Peterson notched an ace, and McKenzie Gruner and Jaydnn Gruner combined for a block to briefly pull the T-Birds within 22-14.
But the deficit was too much to overcome, as Brooklyn Tortorice recorded an ace and Monona Grove held on for a 25-14 lead.
The T-Birds (27-21) came out a different team in the third set, however. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead and never gave it up. The Silver Eagles closed the gap, pulling within 18-14 on a Paxton Braun kill and 20-17 on a Tortorice kill.
But the T-Birds weren’t ready to end its season. A pair of McKenzie Gruner kills gave Baraboo a 22-18 lead, while a Jaydnn Gruner tip kill made it 23-19.
Paxton Braun responded with two kills, pulling the Silver Eagles within 24-21 before a McKenzie Gruner kill gave the T-Birds a 25-21 win.
The fourth set followed a similar path, as Baraboo opened up a 4-1 lead and stretched the lead throughout until Meyer’s set-ending kill gave the T-Birds a 25-17 win that forced a fifth set.
“There was some confidence wavering here and there,” Andersen-Goldsworthy said. “And I’ve got to give it to No. 10 (McKenzie Gruner) and No. 18 (Jaydnn Gruner). Those sisters are really strong players and they came alive.”
McKenzie Gruner had a match-high 22 kills to go along with two blocks and two aces, while Jaydnn Gruner finished with 16 kills, 16 assists and two aces.
But the Silver Eagles managed to wrangle the momentum back in their favor in the final set. Tortorice recorded back-to-back blocks to ignite a 6-0 run that also included two Taylor Moreau aces and gave Monona Grove an 8-1 advantage.
“She went on a nice service run and really kind of set us up in that fifth set,” Andersen-Goldsworthy said. “They stepped out and from the first point I could just tell they had a different energy than set three and four.”
Jaydnn Gruner had a couple kills, but the Silver Eagles kept attacking. They got contributions from everywhere to close out the 15-5 win with four straight points that included a Paxton Braun kill, a Jada Braun ace and a Lang block.
Tortorice paced Monona Grove with 13 kills and five blocks.
“She’s a phenomenal player,” Andersen-Goldsworthy said. “On offense and defense, she just really brings a lot to our team.”
Jada Braun tallied 41 assists for the Silver Eagles, while Paxton Braun had 11 kills and Courtney Havertape had three aces.
Peterson led Baraboo with 27 assists, and Peterson and Daelynn Merrell each collected two aces.
Monona Grove advanced to play No. 1 Holmen in Saturday’s regional final.
“The girls are off school tomorrow, so they can definitely sleep in after this. They earned that for sure,” Andersen-Goldsworthy said. “We’ll do a little bit of a walkthrough practice and then we’ll head up to Holmen for a tough match.”
Sauk Prairie 3, Lodi 0
Top-seeded Sauk Prairie (34-2), which had a first-round bye, opened the Division 2 playoffs with a 25-18, 25-15, 25-12 win over No. 5 Lodi in the regional semifinals.
The Eagles, who are ranked atop Division 2 in the Wisconsin Volleyball Coaches Association poll and reached the Division 1 state semifinals in 2020, will host No. 2 Kewaskum in Saturday’s regional final. Kewaskum claimed a 25-13, 19-25, 25-22, 22-25, 20-18 win over No. 3 Columbus on Thursday.
Reedsburg 3, La Crosse Logan 1
No. 1 Reedsburg advanced with a 25-22, 19-25, 25-16, 25-11 win over No. 8 La Crosse Logan in a WIAA Division 2 regional semifinal.
The Beavers (24-8) advanced to play No. 4 West Salem, which claimed a 21-25, 26-24, 27-25, 25-23 win over No. 5 Richland Center, on Saturday.