WAUTOMA – When the Wisconsin Dells volleyball team lost in four sets at Adams-Friendship back on Sept. 11, the Chiefs knew they could not afford another slip up if they wanted to claim another South Central Conference championship.
Since that loss, which dropped Wisconsin Dells to 1-1 in the SCC, the Chiefs have taken care of business, only losing two more sets in conference play while rolling off six straight conference victories. That winning streak put the Chiefs in position to earn another conference championship, something they clinched at least a share of with an exciting 26-24, 23-25, 25-12, 25-23 victory over Wautoma on Tuesday night.
Wisconsin Dells needed a furious rally to take the opening set, and then after letting its own big lead slip away in the second set, the Chiefs used their overall depth to take the final two sets to get the win, setting the stage for Thursday’s night’s match in Mauston, where Wisconsin Dells will win the conference championship outright with a win over the Golden Eagles.
In the opening set, it was the Hornets that came out flying. After the teams battled to a 7-all tie, Wautoma went on a 7-0 run to go up 14-7 before taking its biggest lead of the set at 18-9. Wautoma appeared to be well on its way to winning the opening set when senior Maddy Weisensel pounded a kills to the floor to give the Hornets a 21-13 lead, but that was when Wisconsin Dells started to make things interesting.
The Chiefs would score four straight points, a run that included a pair of kills from senior Katelyn Meister, to make it 21-17. After a Wisconsin Dells hitting error gave the Hornets a point to make it 22-17, the Chiefs added two more points on a kill from senior Grace Myklebust and a net violation on the Hornets to make it 22-19.
Wautoma would go up 23-19 when a Wautoma attack bounced off a Wisconsin Dells block attempt and sailed out of bounds, but the Chiefs then answered with a 4-0 run to go up 24-23. The 4-0 spurt included an ace serve by sophomore Brooke Hartley, a pair of kills from Tourdot and a block by senior Jamie Pfeifer.
With the Chiefs serving for the set, Wautoma was able to briefly pull even at 24 on a kill from sophomore Hattie Bray, but the Chiefs regained the lead on another kill from Tourdot, followed by a kill from Pfeifer that gave the Chiefs a first-set win at 26-24.
Wisconsin Dells head coach Tami Janke said her team took advantage of the moments when Weisensel and Bray, Wautoma’s two big hitters, rotated into the back row.
“We knew this was going to be a tough match, and we had to take advantage when we could get Maddy and Hattie in the back row, and that’s what really made the difference,” Janke said. “We were able to capitalize when they rotated to the back.”
The other key to the big comeback in the first set was feeding Tourdot, who led the Chiefs with 11 kills on the night.
“That was an effort. She will always be our go-to. She’s been our go-to for the last two years, so it’s just one of those things where she’s got a lot of experience in tough situations,” Janke said. “So go to (Tourdot), because their middle (hitter) is as big as our middle and Weisensel on the outside is away from her, so that was the logical spot to go to.”
In the second set, it was Wisconsin Dells that surged out to a large early lead, as a kill from Grace Myklebust gave the Chiefs a 15-6 lead. Wautoma didn’t fade away tough, as the Hornets responded with a 13-1 run to grab a 19-16 lead. Wisconsin Dells would fight back, tying the set at 19 and 22, and even took a 23-22 lead on a block by Tourdot.
Weisensel would not let her team lose the second set, as the senior outside hitter converted on back-to-back kills to give the Hornets a 24-23 lead, and then had a block kill to give Wautoma a 25-23 win in the second set.
Wisconsin Dells took over in the third set, building a 19-9 lead when Wautoma watched a easy ball fall in for an easy point. This time, Wautoma didn’t have an answer for the Chiefs, as a Tourdot ace serve sealed the 25-12 victory.
Wisconsin Dells looked like it might run away with the victory in the fourth set too, as it bolted out to a 15-5 lead. A kill from Tourdot would give the Chiefs a 19-10 lead, but an inopportune stoppage in play would follow, slowing some of the Chiefs’ momentum. The stoppage came when the trainer working the game approached the down referee in front of the scorer’s table. The two referees then had a brief conversation which led to them checking on Wisconsin Dells junior Abigail Flock before play finally was allowed to resume.
Janke said the trainer had became concerned with Flock after seeing her spit out a bunch of Gatorade and water into a trash can. Once it was established that Flock was OK, and didn’t have anything on her uniform, play continued. The overall stoppage only lasted a few minutes, but it did seem to have a negative effect on the Chiefs.
After the break, Wautoma rolled off five straight points to cut the Wisconsin Dells lead to 19-15. Wisconsin Dells would build its lead back up to 22-16, when Wautoma made one final run.
After two straight kills from Meister gave the Chiefs a 24-20 lead, Wautoma scored three straight, the final two coming on kills from Bray, to make it 24-23. Serving to win the match for the fourth time, Wisconsin Dells was finally able to put the Hornets away when Pfeifer tipped the ball to the back-right corner of the court, where it fell just in bounds, giving the Chiefs a 25-23 win, and sparking a celebration on the Wisconsin Dells side of the court.
Janke was relieved her team was able to recover after the stoppage in play seemed to zap the Chiefs of their energy.
“I was just glad we were able to come back from that, because it was a very convenient time for the trainer to step in,” Janke said.
The conference title is the 10th in the last 11 seasons for Wisconsin Dells.
Wisconsin Dells 26 23 25 25
Wautoma 24 25 12 23
WISCONSIN DELLS (leaders): Kills—Caelan Tourdot 11. Aces—Brooke Hartley 6. Blocks—Jamie Pfeifer 3. Assists—Caelan Tourdot 14. Digs—Kennedy Hickey 28.