By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – The Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) girls’ volleyball schedule really started out with a bang.
After losing the opening two sets, Green Bay Southwest forced a fifth and decisive set against host Notre Dame Academy on Thursday. But the Tritons weren’t going to let the FRCC opener slip away.
Notre Dame broke an 8-8 tie in the final set, scoring seven of the matches last eight points to earn the 15-9 victory and win the match.
Notre Dame won the first two sets 25-20, 25-16, before Green Bay Southwest stormed back to win the third and fourth sets, 25-18, 25-18.
“We really wanted it,” Notre Dame outside hitter Mya Kapalko said. “We really wanted to show that we were the ones out here and we really wanted to come back out, we didn’t want to just go home.”
The Trojans seemingly had all the momentum entering the fifth set. However, it was the Tritons that played strongest.
Notre Dame’s Isabella Ricci scored consecutive points to put her team up 5-1. Southwest coach Kris Pulka-Schuh took a timeout to get her players to regroup.
Trailing 8-3, Southwest scored five straight points thanks to good serving by Morgan Stewart.
Tied at 8-8, the Notre Dame players buckled down.
After a side out on a service error by Southwest, Kapalko served four times — putting her team up 13-8 — registering an ace and helping Hannah Greisen put down a kill.
On match point, Danielle Dow got a kill to secure the victory.
“I think in the huddle we just really focused on our energy, controlling our side of the court,” Notre Dame coach Katrina Costello said. “We wanted to make a push and make a standard of this is our house, so I think that helped the girls really flip back into it and we came out really strong, which helped us win.”
After taking down Southwest 25-20 and 25-16 in the first two sets, it seemed as though Notre Dame was going to cruise to a three-set sweep.
But in the third, the Trojans broke a 14-all set and went on to win, 25-18. From the start of the fourth set, it was all Southwest with an identical 25-18 victory.
Notre Dame looked like a different team in the third and fourth sets compared to the opening two.
“They were just making a lot of errors and we were forcing a lot of errors on that side, so when they started having a couple more swings, it was harder for us to keep our energy up,” Kapalko said. “We were trying really hard for that, which showed a lot in the fifth when we were able to pull back up and really dominate.”
Pulka-Schuh saw her athletes turn up their intensity in the third and fourth and to take the two sets.
“We really need to get our middles involved right away and things just weren’t clicking in the first two sets, it was just the mojo wasn’t there,” Pulka-Schuh said. “What I’m really proud of is the way they fought back in the that third and fourth set to push it to the fifth set. In the fifth set to 15 points, anything can happen. We talked about having the moment and coming out and starting out strong, just a couple of bad breaks where balls were deflected and just different things where we couldn’t quite run them down.”
Southwest was led on the night by Stewart with 13 kills. Margie Stevens added 10 kills and four assisted blocks.
Alyssa Buzaitis had a team-high 19 digs and Alexa Hernandez had 15. Olivia Daane finished with six solo and six assisted blocks.
Notre Dame stats were unavailable as of this story posting.
With Notre Dame just being about a dozen matches into the season, it’s still early on. The players are still having a feeling out process about what they’re like on the court.
“It’s really just important to find our flow and I think we’re starting to do that, which is really good,” said Kapalko, who had two key kills in the fifth set. “We’re finding our rhythm and we’re being able to follow into that step where we’re all just trusting each other. But we’re really bonded as a team, which is helping us a lot.”
“I know that it was a huge goal for our players and athletes and that’s all we’ve been talking about all week,” Costello said. “There was zero chance we wanted to come out with a loss in our gym for our first conference match, so I’m glad that they pulled together and rallied and they did it.”
Added Kapalko: “It feels really good. I know we’ll celebrate it and we’ll carry it on. We have a tournament this weekend, so we’ll try and keep that energy pushing through no matter what’s happening.”