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Poor service reception and passing has hindered the Baraboo volleyball team all season long.

The Thunderbirds again were weighed down by those same issues Thursday night, suffering a 25-15, 25-22, 25-19 loss to rival Sauk Prairie in a Badger North Conference game at Baraboo High School.

Sophomore McKenzie Gruner had a team-high nine kills and junior Jordan Buelow dished out 18 assists to lead Baraboo in the loss on Senior Night.

“We just didn’t really show up tonight,” Baraboo coach Mandy Brice said. “We have a really hard time picking it up when we get down a few points; it might come from a pretty young team without a lot of experience. I am really proud of our seniors though for their commitment and dedication, and I’m also really proud of the younger girls.”

After fading away fast in the first set, the T-Birds (11-13, 1-6 Badger North) came out swinging in the second set. Baraboo traded punches with the Eagles in the early going, with neither team leading by more than a point until a kill by senior Kapriece Tollaksen sparked a 4-0 spurt that put Baraboo on top 16-13.

The momentum didn’t last long as Sauk Prairie (27-11, 2-5) answered with a 7-0 run of its own, including two aces by junior Olivia Breunig, to seize a 20-16 lead. Baraboo pulled back within a point twice, at 20-19 and again at 22-21 as two Eagles kill attempts sailed out of bounds.

The T-Birds failed to fully get over the hump, however, as the Eagles closed out the set on a 3-1 run, capped off by a kill from senior Lauren Wideen, to take it 25-22.

“We have a really hard time picking it up when we get down a few points; it might come from a pretty young team without a lot of experience,” Brice said. “It just zaps us of everything we’ve got and they’ve just got a tough time of kind of getting back, staying positive and working as a team. That’s tough.”

Needing a win to stay alive, Baraboo again was up to the task in the opening sequence of the third set. The T-Birds trailed by as many as six at 11-5 but were able to pull within 13-11 following a pair of Gruner kills and an Eagles attacking error.

Again Sauk Prairie stretched the advantage back out, using a 7-3 run, including two kills and an ace by junior Aida Shadewald, to take a 20-14 lead. After trading points, Baraboo pulled back within 22-18 but the Eagles shut the door with a Wideen kill finishing off the sweep.

Shadewald led all players with 15 kills and was one of two Eagles players with a match-high five aces at the expense of the T-Birds service reception and passing struggles.

“It’s just something we’re going to have to continue to work on and communication; knowing who’s getting the ball and being ready to get it every single time,” Brice said.

Along with Gruner, senior Julia Genna notched 11 digs while Buelow, Crary and senior Lauryn Frederick each had an ace for Baraboo. Along with their ball-handling woes, Brice said the team must continue to work on being more aggressive to open more holes offensively.

Despite the loss, the first-year coach praised the seniors for their dedication and the younger players for their effort, even though she knows they’ll have to put in a hard day’s work Friday to prepare for Saturday’s Badger North Conference tournament.

“We’re going to have to have a really good practice tomorrow; an incredibly good practice in order to get our spirits up to go into Saturday with a winning attitude, ready to play and to show up as a whole new Baraboo team,” she said.

SAUK PRAIRIE 3, BARABOO 0

Sauk Prairie 25 25 25

Baraboo 15 22 19

SAUK PRAIRIE (leaders): Kills — Shadewald 15. Assists — O. Breunig 14. Digs — Apel 13. Blocks — Shadewald, Pertzborn, Wideen 3. Aces — Shadewald, Paukner 5.

BARABOO: Kills — Gruner 9. Assists — Buelow 18. Digs — Genna 11. Aces — Frederick, Buelow, Crary 1.

Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR or contact him at 608-745-3512.

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