Ahead of its Badger North Conference opener, the Sauk Prairie volleyball team got a sample of Portage at the Janesville Cougar/Viking Classic on Aug. 30 and 31, edging out a 2-1 win.
The Eagles faced little resistance from the Warriors on Thursday, cruising to a 25-19, 25-14, 25-12 sweep at Sauk Prairie High School. Sophomore Aida Shadewald had a game-high nine kills and five aces, while senior Ainsley Apel racked up 24 digs in the convincing victory.
It was a case of déjà vu from Janesville for the two teams in the league opener as they traded blows in the start of the opening set. The foestraded the lead four times before ultimately settling at 5-5 on a block by Portage senior McKena Yelk, but that was the closest the Warriors got.
A midline violation gave the Eagles a 6-5 lead and they seized control from there. With Apel at the service line, Sauk Prairie (1-0 Badger North, 14-1) tacked on five more points to take an 11-5 lead. A quick 3-1 spurt cut the deficit to 12-8 and the Warriors pulled to within four late at 19-15, but again Apel squashed the threat
A 4-0 run capped by an ace extended the advantage to 23-15 before shutting the door on a late Warriors push to take the opening set.
“We played them in the Janesville Tournament on Friday and it was the same situation, but they beat us the first set,” Sauk Prairie coach Amy Schlimgen said. “It was back-and-forth, and I don’t know if they came out of the better or we didn’t, but we just kind of took control.”
Portage (0-1, 3-9) again was able to get off to a good start in the second set as a Yelk kill capped off a 4-1 opening run. Sauk Prairie quickly put the kibosh on that, however, as the Eagles rattled off a 13-1 run, including 10 points behind the serve of Shadewald, to grab a 14-5 lead.
The Warriors got back within six at 16-10 as a block by junior Emma Kreuziger finished off a 3-0 run, but the Eagles again got rolling. Sauk Prairie answered with a 6-1 spurt, finished off by a kill from senior Hannah Kruckman, to make it 22-11 before ultimately finishing things off with a stuff kill by senior Lauren Wideen to take the set 25-14.
Shadewald, who tallied a game-high five aces and Apel, fiddled with the Warriors all night from the service line. Even more impressive according to Schlimgen was the latter’s communication and Shadewald’s play at the net.
“She’s just a leader; she has a lot of volleyball experience, she’s a senior, a captain and best communicator on the team, by far. If you watch her she’s talking on every contact and that’s so important,” Schlimgen said of Apel.
“Aida’s kind of quiet, but she’s a powerful, powerful hitter and she’s really, really improved her game playing club ball this year,” Schlimgen added.
Looking to finish things off, the Eagles soared out of the gates in the third set. Sauk Prairie bullied its way to a quick 14-3 lead, and while the Warriors cut the deficit as low as nine twice, never truly threatened as the Eagles ultimately put the match to bed.
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Along with Shadewald, Kruckman added seven kills, while Wideen had two blocks and junior Olivia Breunig dished out a team-high 10 assists. As impressive as the offense was, Schlimgen noted that the team is looking to push the pace even more as they get into the heart of league play.
Another area the Eagles are focusing on is their defense. Sauk Prairie passed its first test with flying colors against the Warriors, limiting Portage’s hitting windows throughout the night while keeping long rallies alive with frenetic floor coverage.
“We have been working really hard and honestly this team was not great as a whole at defense and reacting, and just passing in general. We’ve been really, really pushing it,” Schlimgen said.
With such little stress so far, Schlimgen admitted she hasn’t “really seen this team crumble yet,” however, she said the staff is “preaching teamwork and a next point mentality.”
Sauk Prairie returns to action with a non-conference match against Stoughton at home next Tuesday before heading to Beaver Dam for a Badger North clash next Thursday.
SAUK PRAIRIE 3, PORTAGE 0
Portage 19 14 12
Sauk Prairie 25 25 25
PORTAGE (leaders): Kills — McKena Yelk 4. Blocks — Gabrielle Garrigan, Emma Kreuziger 2. Digs — Genna Garrigan 8. Assists — Abby Leeland 6.
SAUK PRAIRIE: Kills — Aida Shadewald 9. Blocks — Lauren Wideen 2. Digs — Ainsley Apel 24. Aces — Aida Shadewald 5. Assists — Olivia Breunig 10.