BY MURRAY GLEFFE
GREEN BAY- The West De Pere Phantoms volleyball team won two of three matches at the Bay Conference tournament to finish third, and place fourth overall for the season. (Oct. 13)
In the opener, West De Pere shook off a recent 3-2 loss to Seymour just this past week and left no doubt who was the better team on this day by defeating the Thunder in resounding fashion. (25-15, 25-9)
“I was extremely happy at how the girls came out and defeated Seymour,” said Nicole Stegall, Phantoms volleyball coach. “You never know how they will come out with an early Saturday morning match but everybody played amazing. We just lost to Seymour and to come and win by double digits in both sets is a testament at how hard they have worked in practice.”
In the semis, the Phantoms took on the number one seed and undefeated Appleton Xavier Hawks.
They weren’t intimidated in the least bit as they fought and scrapped their way to an opening 28-26 opening set in a rowdy Red Devils gymnasium where four games were going on at the same time.
The Phantoms dropped set number two (25-15) and went toe to toe in the shortened third before falling 15-11.
“We still had a lot of energy against Xavier in the second match because we were only on the court about 40 minutes in our first round,” said Stegall. “I think we kind of surprised them a bit by capturing that first set. They just made a few more plays than we did down the stretch; otherwise we would have been in that championship match versus Shawano.”
The Phantoms came back out for the third-place match on Court B with the host team (Red Devils) and didn’t look fatigued or disappointed from the semi-final loss.
In fact, they were trying to erase the memory of a three-set loss to the Red Devils to start the Bay Conference off way back in early September.
West De Pere opened the match with a 7-5 lead behind the crisp hitting of Brooke Bemowski and setting of Cambria Budinger.
The Phantoms extended the lead to 13-8 after Alivia Baumann powered an ace to the Red Devils floor.
At 16-11, Junior midhitter Maddy Counard got into the fray with a well-timed block of an attempted Green Bay East kill.
Emilie Everard then put the visitors up 22-15 after she hit a kill across her body that hit the right sidelines and dropped in.
“Emilie has been such an asset to our team this year,” Stegall said. “She has remained patient and is our go to player for kills.”
The Red Devils called a time out and weren’t about to give up on set number one quite yet.
They ripped off six of the next eight points behind two aces by Alena Patrick and kills by Grace Schumacher.
Jaguars volleyball coach Nicole Stegall called a time out to try and get her players to finish the set off.
That is exactly what they did.
With a precarious two-point lead still in hand, Bemowski and Budinger delivered the last two blows and the Phantoms took the opening set 25-21.
“Cambria and Brooke played good volleyball today,” said Stegall. “They remained consistent throughout and it showed in this third match with how they dug deep in crucial points and situations.”
The Red Devils got off to leads of 5-1, 8-3 in set number two before the Phantoms slowly clawed their way back.
A couple of loose sets by Green Bay East and the impeccable timing of blocks by freshman Rachel Breu put the Phantoms out in front 13-12.
It was short lived, though, as Gretchen Farrell hit three kills in a four-point succession to give the Red Devils the lead back and they increased the lead as the match went on to take the middle set by a final of 25-20.
One set to decide who finished third place and the coveted six points that went along with it.
The Phantoms opened set number three by winning the first point after a Red Devils player interfered with the net.
The Red Devils regained the lead at 4-3.
The Phantoms snagged it back at 6-5.
That’s when the see-saw affair in the final set ended and in a good way for West De Pere.
On back to back points, Emily Schmechel had two amazing digs to keep the point alive that ended with Everard smashing balls to the floor on the Red Devils side.
At 13-7 in the final set, junior outside hitter Elle Zimmerman came up with a block that gave the Phantoms championship point.
The setter that propelled the Phantoms all night long, Cambria Budinger, ended the hopes of the Red Devils with a quick flick that nobody could retrieve, and West De Pere came away with a hard fought 15-8 victory in the third and final set.
“I am extremely proud of the way the girls finished the conference portion out,” Stegall added. “We started the year pretty rough. I think we are hitting our stride as a team at the right time. We are still an extremely young team with only three seniors, and half of our team is comprised of underclassmen. We got a high seed for the playoffs, but we are going to give everything we have in that match. I’m excited.”
The Phantoms received the #13 seed in the upcoming WIAA Regionals and will travel to Hortonville to take on the #4 seeded Polar Bears.