BY MURRAY GLEFFE
ASHWAUBENON-In an unbelievable turn of events, the Ashwaubenon Jaguars volleyball team came storming back (saved one match point) to defeat the Manitowoc Ships by three sets to two (18-25, 17-25, 28-26, 25-19, 15-11) to win the Fox River Classic Conference by a full game.
Maria Scherer had 4 kills, 9 digs, 4 blocks, and 50 assists.
Additionally, Maddie Koch added 31 kills and 13 digs, and Maddie Crowley 14 kills, 4 aces and 23 digs.
The Ships dominated set one getting off to leads of 8-4, and 16-8 before winning the opener by seven points.
The second set started well for the Jaguars in that they took a 6-1 lead.
However, the set slowly started to tilt in the Ships favor after they evened the score at 8-8 and eventually went up 21-16 behind the strong play of Katie Raimondo and Lauren Borchardt putting down kills and Paige Franz who was setting them up.
Ashwaubenon was missing serves and kills and the Ships didn’t show any nerves playing 40 miles from home. They appeared to be on their way to a conference championship just 50 minutes into the contest.
The Jaguars, however, had other plans on this night before an energized student body and home crowd.
Knowing they would have to win the remaining three sets to win the match and the conference, the Jaguars grabbed leads of 13-9 and 16-12 in set three behind Crowley and Koch’s kills.
The Ships remained steadfast by evening the game at 24 apiece.
That set the dramatic stage to the ending of the third set.
The Jaguars went up 25-24 after a Koch kill.
The Ships then took the next two points and had championship point at 26-25.
When you need a point and have your back to the wall, you turn to your top player and Purdue University signee-Koch.
She delivered in the clutch with a perfect set by Scherer to even the set back up at 26-26.
The Jaguar’s Anna Wendorf then had the block of her young varsity career when it mattered most to put Ashwaubenon up 27-26.
Scherer then faked a set to Koch and went to Wendorf on the right flank for a kill to give the Jaguars the set 28-26 in majestic fashion.
Eight lead changes ensued in the fourth set with the Ships taking a late 19-18 lead.
The Jaguars then showed what champions are made of by finishing the set in style.
Two aces, a block, and four Ships unforced errors to win the final seven points of the set (even the match at two sets apiece) and force a fifth and deciding set for ‘all the marbles’.
Despite trailing 5-1 and 6-3 in the final set, the Jaguars remained calm and fought back each time.
At 6-3, Koch two hand pushed a ball to the back left part of the floor to win the point.
The Jaguars Mabel Kirst got into the action with two flicks over to win key points for Ashwaubenon.
Down the stretch, there was too much momentum and everything going for the Jaguars for them to be denied a conference championship.
At 14-11 in the final set, and everybody standing, Allison Nitti took the feed from Scherer and pummeled the ball to the floor to give the Jaguars a title and a lifelong memory for the 2018 Ashwaubenon Jaguars volleyball team.