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Why Columbus' Taylor Raley was 'emotional' after her team's win in postseason opener
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Why Columbus' Taylor Raley was 'emotional' after her team's win in postseason opener

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Taylor Raley

Columbus' Taylor Raley (1) tries for a tip kill past Campbellsport's Laci Lindsley (left) during the Cardinals' win over the visiting Cougars in Tuesday night's WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinals.

COLUMBUS — No matter the outcome, Taylor Raley and her fellow seniors on the Columbus high school girls volleyball team knew Tuesday would be the last time they'd play in front of their home crowd.

Lose and the third-seeded Cardinals were done. A victory and they'd be hitting the road for the next round of the playoffs.

They'll be hitting the road — 25-11, 25-23, 27-25 winners over sixth-seeded Campbellsport in the WIAA Division 2 regional quarterfinals. 

“Honestly,” Raley said of the seniors ending their careers at the "Cardinals Nest" on a good note, “it’s really sentimental.

“I’m just super proud of this team. It makes me emotional because I love these girls so much.”

Raley and the Cardinals definitely had to earn the sweep, though.

After using a 12-2 run midway through the opening set to pull away, a kill by Raley — who led the team with eight of them — gave Columbus the one-set-to-none advantage.

But the next two sets were anything but a cakewalk.

Campbellsport methodically built a 15-10 lead in the second set before Columbus rallied, ultimately tying the score at 16 to set the stage for a back-and-forth finish to the set.

There were two more ties after that before Columbus would take the lead for the first time since early on in the set, going in front 22-21 on an ace by junior Alise Hayes and then holding on to go up two sets to none.

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“They struggled a little bit in the first set,” Raley said of the Cougars, “but they came back with a lot of fire.

“We lost a little bit of energy in the second set and things started to go downhill a little bit. It’s all about communication — volleyball is a huge game of who has the energy, who has the right communication, who’s talking and I think we lost it a little bit after the first set. We had to pick up our communication a little bit. We ended up doing that enough to win.”

Added Columbus coach Aileen Heller of the tactical key to the come-from-behind second-set victory, “Our blocking stepped up a little bit — we were able to get a couple blocks, which brought some momentum to our side.

“We also cleaned up our hitting errors — in the beginning of the set we had a lot of hitting errors and at the end we were able to clean it up and find the court again.”

The third set was even tighter. There were 16 ties, and neither side led by more than two after Campbellsport’s early 5-2 advantage.

Twice, Columbus faced set point — when the Cougars led 24-23 and again 25-24 — but the Cardinals were not to be denied the sweep, advancing to face second-seeded Kewaskum in Thursday’s regional semifinals thanks to senior Lauren Henry’s block kill.

Balance — on both offense and defense — also helped on the night as Hayes chipped in with six kills and six blocks, Henry had 13 digs to complement junior Sydney Maxwell’s team-high 15, junior Grace Kahl had four blocks and junior setter Mikenna Boettcher had 17 assists.  

“We didn’t panic,” Raley said of never pressing on the night, especially in those critical moments late in the last two sets. “We controlled our passes and we controlled our serves. It’s a little nerve-wracking at those points. The pressure was on, but we kept control and we didn’t panic and I think that’s why we were able to take back control.”

That poise the Cardinals showed in crunch time is owed to the fact they’re a close-knit group, both Raley and Heller agreed.

“I don’t think Columbus has had a group of girls that has had such great chemistry. We just go out there and have a lot of fun,” said Raley, who in addition to Henry was also joined by Peyton Bohn, Fayth Paulson and Grace VanderSanden in playing their last home match as seniors.

“This is one of the closest teams that I’ve coached,” added Heller. “They’ve worked really hard at their team chemistry, and it’s going to be sad when the season’s over. They’re a good bunch of girls.”

Follow Dan on Twitter @Danny_Larson_8 or contact him at 920-356-6753.

 

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