By Murray Gleffe
ASHWAUBENON-Practices and a scrimmage can’t replicate match play.(Aug.21)
The Jaguars volleyball team opened up their season by hosting the Panthers of Oconto Falls in a best two out of three game format in their own tournament.
In Game 1, the Jaguars jumped out to a 6-1 lead with two aces by Maria Scherer.
Later in the contest, Maddie Koch jumped into the fray by connecting on a kill to put the Jaguars up 9-3.
The Panthers then evened the game at 10 all in the opener after the Jaguars missed on two serves and had three unforced errors on their attack.
Oconto Falls never did gain the lead, and the Jaguars slowly built their lead back up.
At 13-12, Emily Lange received a set from Scherer and quick flicked the ball to an open spot on the floor.
Minutes later, Koch and Maddie Crowley connected on consecutive kills to put the Jaguars up 20-17.
“Koch and Crowley both had such a net presence,” said Megan Wierschke, Jaguars volleyball coach. “They found ways around and over blocks and laid out to make some great defensive plays. Scherer was busting her butt around the court all night to get that second contact and run that quick offense we are looking for.”
As precarious as the lead became at times, Ashwaubenon responded each and every time.
A key moment came after the Panthers appeared to have closed the gap to two points late in the contest but were called for net interference by the lead official.
It gave the Jaguars a 21-17 lead and they went onto win the opener by a score of 25-20.
In Game 2, the Panthers flew out of the gates and took a 6-2 lead behind the play of Jada Janiak and Emma Huberty.
The Jaguars substituted at will to try and conserve some energy for the late push.
Emilie Pludeman, Allison Nitti, and Mabel Kirst gave some quality minutes in key moments.
“Allison (Nitti) contributed a lot to the rotations,” said Wierschke “Whether it was blocking, serving, or running an offensive play at the net, she stayed very active on the court and contributed to the team’s performance and outcome in a positive way.”
The Jaguars then went on a min-spurt to even the game.
Later on in the game, Crowley blasted four kills to give Ashwaubenon the lead at 14-13.
At 19-15, Pludeman connected on a big ace to propel the Jaguars onto victory (25-18) in the opening match.
The Jaguars went on to defeat Fox Valley Lutheran (2-0), lose to Appleton Xavier and Little Chute (0-2), and then defeat the Hawks of Appleton Xavier (2-0) in a rematch to take third place on the day.
“The girls were able to keep energy high and play a full day from start to finish,” Wierschke said. “So often teams come out slow or end on a less than positive note. We were able to turn scrappy out of system balls into points and make some really nice runs at the service line. A quick tempo offense is what we are striving for and we were able to see glimpses of that throughout the day. It was a real nice team effort.”
Little Chute was crowned the champion of the 2018 Ashwaubenon Invite.