By Josh Staloch
GREEN BAY – The Green Bay Preble girls’ volleyball team was at full strength for the first time this season on Thursday, and it showed in the result.
The host Hornets survived a second-game scare from Ashwaubenon, but won the match, 3-1 (25-20, 21-25, 25-23, 25-17).
“This week, we’ve finally got our whole team back. Between injuries and illnesses, this is the first time all year we’ve actually had everyone on the roster out there,” Preble coach Brian Van Den Plas said. “We got down ealy tonight. But it just takes a little bit of momentum and the faith that we can all play together as a team, which we haven’t had a lot of time to do so far this year.”
The two squads kept it close to start the opening frame as back-to-back aces from Preble’s Kiara Kuhn tied the game at 10 and then put the home team up by one.
But the Hornets (1-2 Fox River Classic Conference, 6-14 overall) couldn’t get more than a point or two worth of breathing room as the Jaguars’ tenacious play saw them hanging around until late in the first game. Preble buckled down at 20-18 to take five of the next six points and close it out on a nice kill shot from Aleah Butterbrodt.
“We’ve got great senior leadership,” Van DenPlas said. “I’ve got nine seniors on the roster and so that’s been a real galvanizing piece of our puzzle where, if one senior isn’t having a good night, the other seniors will rally around her. It’s really good for our younger players to see.”
The second frame was back-and-forth early as the Jaguars used a four-point run to jump out to a 6-2 lead, building it up to 11-5 eventually.
The Hornets came right back and pulled to within a pair at 13-11, but the Ashwaubenon front line of Jaiden Steeno, Avery Amenson and Ava Norman was particularly effective at keeping the Preble hitters from getting through. And when they did get shots through the front line, the Hornets’ hitters were having trouble with Brynn Bauer — she seemed to dig every shot the home team threw at her in the second game. She came up with a big point after connecting with a shot while on a dead run towards the sideline that somehow found open court on the other side of the net.
The Jaguars (0-3 FRCC, 6-16 overall) closed out the second game by playing consistently on a long point at 24-21 and eventually forcing Preble into a mistake.
The third frame of Thursday evening’s match was even more dramatic. Ashwaubenon took a 14-10 lead on back-to-back aces from Aubrey LeCleir before an ace from Steeno later in the game gave the visitors a six-point edge at 17-11.
But Preble pulled out of it with a nice run, highlighted by a touch shot from Butterbrodt that pulled the Hornets to within two at 19-17.
The home team got it down to one point thanks to a fantastic play from Faith Vang in which the senior came up with a huge dig to keep the point alive long enough for Ashwaubenon to make an error.
The home team pulled ahead 22-21 on a thunderous kill from Andrea Butterboldt, who would close things out on the third moments later by fooling the Jaguars’ defense with a soft shot perfectly placed to find open court.
“The big thing for us is, we have to find ways of building consistency,” first-year Ashwaubenon coach Jim Swim said. “So if we lose close, if we go to four games or five games, there’s learning there. Getting swept out of a match, there aren’t a whole lot of takeaways from those. But there’s a lot we can learn from tonight’s performance and I’m proud of the way the girls played.”
The fourth and deciding set was, like the three before it, close in the early going. But the powerful arm of Aleah Butterbrodt continued to give the Ashwaubenon defense trouble, and five points was as close as the visitors could get.
The Hornets went up 22-16 on a big block from Kuhn and Mia Racine. Racine closed out the match moments later with a kill for a 25-17 final.
Leading the way for Preble was Aleah Butterbrodt with 14 kills and three aces. Kuhn also added three aces. Racine had 10 kills and Maddy Dalbroux and Vang scored 17 and 16 digs, respectively.
By Josh Staloch