By Murray Gleffe, Sports Correspondent
The Ashwaubenon Jaguar volleyball team fought and scrapped their way to a 3-games to 2 (24-26, 25-20, 20-25, 25-23, 15-9) victory over the DePere Redbirds before a raucous crowd at the Ashwaubenon Field House. Maddie Koch led the way with 25 kills and 4 blocks. Maddie Crowley added 10 digs and 3 aces, and Maria Scherer had an amazing 38 assists for the game!
The first game of the match between the rivals set the tone for the entire night. DePere held a slight edge early at 8-5. However, a few points later, the Jaguars Maddie Crowley hit a left side kill and then Maddie Koch (a push down the line) kill to even the score at 11-11. The Redbirds seized momentum again to go up 18-14, but the Jaguars showed their resiliency by evening the score at 22 all after a miss serve, and misplayed ball by DePere. The Jaguars had a chance to capture the game at 24-23, but the Redbirds played the last three points of the game well and won Game 1 by a score of 26-24.
The Jaguars knew they could not dig themselves a two to zero hole. Midway through Game 2, the Jaguars took control after a Koch block put the Jaguars up 12-10. They extended that lead to 18-14 after Crowley had a kill shot off an incredible save by Shaun Barry to keep the point alive. The massive student section (who were awarded pizzas for the best signs in the house) showed their approval by jumping around. The Jaguars captured Game 2 by 25-20 after the Redbirds inexplicably hit three kills long, and a missed serve the last four out of five points.
The Redbirds captured Game 3 by a score of 25-20, and the Jaguars knew they would have to win the last two games if they wanted to capture the FRCC dual. The Jaguars showed they were ready to fight getting out to a 7-1, and 11-3 lead in Game 4. Megan Servais and Allison Nitti each had a block in the scoring outburst to start the game. Additionally, Maria Scherer put up beautiful sets to Crowley and Koch who ‘did their thing’ by putting the ball on the floor. After building such a big lead, it looked like a foregone conclusion that the Jaguars and Redbirds were heading to a winner take all fifth game. However, the Redbirds had other plans. They slowly battled back into the game. They cut the margin to 19-15 after a Jaguar player went into the net. The Jaguars regrouped and built their lead back up. Then the unthinkable almost happened! With the Jaguars leading 24-18, the Redbirds won 5 straight points, and the traveling Redbird students and parents were on the feet knowing that they could end the match in Game 4. Jaguar Head Volleyball Coach Megan Wierschke called a time out to settle her players down and to give the starters a much needed ‘blow’. After the players came out, the Jaguars strangely won Game 4 on a missed serve by the Redbirds. That point seemed to set the tone for Game 5!
The Jaguars and Redbirds sat at two games all and both had to will their will to victory despite extremely warm temperatures inside the gym. The Jaguars jumped out to a 3-1 lead after Crowely hit a service ace. However, the Redbirds responded by winning five of the next six points to take a 7-4 lead. The Redbird bench was literally out on the floor with excitement after every point during their run. However, the calm and resilient Jaguars called a time out and came out with a fire that left many in amazement after almost three hours of volleyball. The fury for the Jaguars started with (yes) a missed serve by Depere and then a Nitti block. That was followed up by a Koch ace and kill to even the score at 9-9. The Jaguars then finished in grand style. Maddie Crowley hit a kill shot off a deflection, Maria Scherer quick flick shot to an open space, Alyssa Bath an ace, Maria Scherer a push heave to the back end-line, and two closing Redbird errors. When it was all over, the Jaguars had ended the game on a 6-0 run to capture Game 5 (15-9) and the match. The Jaguar players exploded off the bench with jubilation, and big smiles were shown by the Jaguar coaching staff. The Jaguars improve to 11-12 overall, and 2-2 in the FRCC. They will travel to the Appleton East Invite over the weekend.